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THE WAY TO VICTORY 

VOLUME TWO: THE REPULSE 



PHILIP GIBBS 



THE WAY TO 
VICTORY 

BY 

PHILIP GIBBS 

Avihm of "The Struggle in Flanders," "The Battles 
of the Somme," "The Soul of the War," etc. 



IN TWO VOLUMES 

VOLUME TWO 
THE REPULSE 




NEW ^S^ YORK 
GEORGE H. DORAN COMPANY 



2) 

ws 



Copyright, 1919, 
By George H. Doran Company 



Printed in the United States of America 



CONTENTS 

VOLUME TWO: THE REPULSE 

PAGE 

Introduction ii 



PART V 

FROM FLANDERS TO THE MARNE 

CHAPTER 

I The Saving of Amiens 17 

II Khaki and Blue 24 

III Australians and Americans 29 

IV The French Advance Across the Marne ... 41 

r' 

PART VI 
THE BRITISH VICTORIES 

I A General Advance , 49 

II Outside Arras 53 

III Back to Bapaume 67 

IV Round Peronne and Northwards 81 

V Through the Drocourt-Queant Line .... 94 

PART VII 
THE BATTLE FOR CAMBRAI 

I Beyond Bourlon Wood 115 

II The End of the Hindenburg Line .... 127 

V 



vi CONTENTS 

CHAPTER PAGE 

III The Way to Le Cateau , . 147 

IV The Capture of the City 159 

PART VIII 

THE LAST PHASE 

I Our Armies of Pursuit 175 

II The Crossing of the Selle 184 

III The Last Battle of Flanders 189 

IV The Entry into Lille 208 

V OSTEND AND THE COAST . 2l6 

VI To COURTRAI AND VALENCIENNES 221 

VII The Fall of Valenciennes 250 

VIII From Tournai to Mons 259 



MAPS AND DIAGRAMS 

PAGE 

The German Advance to the Marne 27 

Cambrai and the Somme 84 

The Line Before the Germans' Last Retreat . . . 167 

The Flanders Front 278 



vS 



THE REPULSE 



THE WAY TO VICTORY 



INTRODUCTION 

Looking back upon the last phase of the war, with more 
detachment of mind than was possible to me or to any man 
in the actual tumult of it, certain aspects of the military 
and moral situation of the armies in conflict, and of the 
Armistice which followed the German surrender, stand 
out in clearer detail through the dust and smoke and 
slaughter on the battlefields. 

The genius of one man, taking the highest risks with 
cool and thoughtful courage, dominates one's imagination 
in the retrospect of those days — the daring intelligence of 
Marshal Foch. He was fearfully handicapped by weak- 
ness of man-power immediately available as fighting units. 
His Army of Reserve was almost mythical in the blackest 
days of all when the enemy brought over all his available 
divisions from Russia, and struck blow after blow with 
enormous weight first against the British and then against 
the French, breaking through their defences each time and 
forcing them into rapid and perilous retreat. The British 
armies had been, as I have told previously, weakened to 
a tragic extent by the Battle of Flanders in 19 17, when they 
lost 800,000 men in casualties, and then, before the German 
offensive in March of 191 8, consented, generously and 
rashly, under strong political pressure from France, to take 
over a longer line of front. They were not strong enough 
to resist the German onslaught of 114 divisions to their 
48, and after two months of heroic rear-guard fighting they 

II 



12 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

were hardly able to resist new attacks by which they were 
threatened from the reserve army under Prince Rupprecht 
of Bavaria. 

It was then that Foch acted with extreme audacity. He 
dissipated what reserves he had by sending his cavalry and 
many of his picked divisions behind the British lines be- 
tween Amiens and the coast of Belgium, thereby exposing 
his own front to inevitable weakness when the turn of the 
French army should come to bear the shock of heavy blows 
which he knew would be struck. Those blows came swiftly 
and terribly, and the Germans smashed their way across 
the Chemin-des-Dames, struck down through Fismes in a 
rapid drive, and reached the Marne. But they had been 
held up on the right by General Gourand outside Rheims, 
suffering vast losses under the fire of the French soixante- 
quinzes, and their advance had made for them a deep 
salient with exposed flanks. The German General Staff 
knew their own risk in establishing such a position, but they 
were confident that Foch had no reserves at hand to launch 
strong counter-attacks. The German Crown Prince was 
ordered to prepare another big drive which would carry 
him to Paris and break the spirit of the French armies and 
people. 

Foch had but little time in which to act — a few short 
days — but with lightning decision he withdrew all the men 
who had gone rushing up behind the British lines — I shall 
never forget the thrilling sight of that tide of men stream- 
ing back along the roads in dense clouds of dust all through 
those days and nights — ^borrowed some of our best divi- 
sions, Hke the 15th, 51st, and 41st, and then sent forward 
the trained American divisions who had been fighting in 
the Argonne and in Lorraine. Those American consti- 
tuted Marshal Foch's trump card. He held them up his 
sleeve, and he played them for all they were worth at the 
psychological moment, and they, as the world knows, re- 
sponded to his call with supreme spirit and courage, on the 
Chateau-Thierry side of the German salient, as the British 



INTRODUCTION 13 

and French troops did on the other sides. The trump card 
was played and won the game there on the Marne. Ger- 
man officers taken in those days were dazed and dumb- 
founded. Some of them said, **Who has attacked us?" 
and when they were told, "Foch's Army of Reserve," they 
answered bitterly, refusing to believe the facts by which 
they were defeated, *'Foch has no Army of Reserve. It 
is all bluff. We have been told so by our High Com- 
mand." Ludendorf choked when the news came to him 
and had an apoplectic seizure. He saw his doom ahead. 
After that the British began a great counter-offensive on 
the Northern front, between Amiens and Albert, on Au- 
gust 8th, and that fighting which continued until Novem- 
ber nth, the day of Armistice, without any pause, was 
the most astonishing and glorious epic in the history of 
British arms. Those battles were fought by many divi- 
sions which had been broken to pieces in the German 
drive of March and April and had been filled up with young 
boys of i8 and 19 sent out from England's last reserves 
of youth, not trained in actual warfare, not hardened by 
Hfe in the trenches. But the courage of those boys was 
marvellous and unfailing, and the veteran soldiers who 
bravened them, the men who had returned with healed 
wounds or had, by some miracle, passed unscathed through 
many battles, said, *'Well done, kids !" and could not praise 
them enough. The Australians, Canadians, and New 
Zealanders became the spear-heads of the new attacks and 
made the first break in the enemy's lines, and fought on to 
the end in many great battles which shattered the German 
armies of the North until they could fight no more ; but the 
English, Scottish, Welsh, and Irish troops never lagged be- 
hind, and advanced day by day with grim and gallant 
endurance, smashing their way through German trench 
systems and through belts of machine-gun fire from scat- 
tered villages, flinging themselves across canal after canal, 
defended desperately, and capturing town after town, with 
vast numbers of prisoners, thousands of guns, and pro- 



14 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

digious stores of war material. Their losses were heavy. 
The Canadians alone had 20,000 casualties outside Cam- 
brai. Many English divisions lost half their strength, 
and some of them more than that. But with heroic spirit 
they went on, until the end came with victory. Marshal 
Foch himself paid a high tribute to this fighting of the 
British troops. *'The hammer-strokes of the British," he 
said, "were the decisive factor in the German defeat." 
That is good enough, and gives the British soldier his due 
share of honour. 

The enemy was broken in spirit and in body. When in 
September I saw the 2nd German Guards coming down in 
droves as prisoners in our hands after the breaking of the 
Hindenburg switch line between Queant and Drocourt, 
cheering when they saw other groups arrive, and shouting, 
"Bravo! Bravo! Now the war will soon be over,*' I be- 
lieved, for the first time, that the German Army was at 
the breaking point; and when later our English troops of 
the Midlands, with Americans on their left, crossed the 
great canal of St.-Quentin, and went clean through and 
beyond the main Hindenburg line, I knew that the Germans 
were defeated utterly. 

And they knew it, and their officers and men admitted 
it, because beyond that Hindenburg line they had no more 
defensive systems, and the way to Germany lay open ex- 
cept for their rear-guard screens of machine-gunners cov- 
ering a general retreat. So they sued for peace, sent a 
deputation to our lines under a white flag, and, by accept- 
ing the terms of Armistice drawn up by Marshal Foch, 
made the most abject and humiliating surrender ever 
signed by a great military power and nation. 

Some people still, here in the United States, where I 
write this preface, are disappointed that the Armistice came 
too soon, and believe that if fighting had been continued 
for another three months or more Germany's defeat would 
have been more conclusive and assured. I do not agree 
with them. By November nth the German armies were 



INTRODUCTION 15 

utterly and absolutely defeated. They could neither re- 
fuse battle nor accept battle, and the strength of their war- 
machine had rotted away until it could not hang together. 
In the last phase of the war the British alone had cap- 
tured 200,000 prisoners and an immense number of guns. 
The French and Americans had shattered the armies before 
them by great slaughter and great captures. The moral of 
the German troops was so miserable that apart from the 
extreme valour of their picked rear-guards of machine- 
gunners, the mass of their infantry was a rabble not only 
without the will to fight but with the deliberate determina- 
tion not to fight. There were 15,000 deserters in Cologne 
when the British entered. Panic and despair and rage 
against the leadership which had led them to this ruin 
raised up the spirits of anarchy and revolution, and the 
German soldiers, no longer disciplined, and the German 
people, sickened by the rivers of blood which had drained 
their race, demanded peace, at any cost of humiliation, and 
surrender. They accepted the stern conditions of Marshal 
Foch without a murmur, and they left behind them, on 
their way out of France and Belgium, the broken bits of 
their war-machine. From Mons to Liege and Namur and 
the German frontier, the roads were strewn with aban- 
doned guns, aeroplanes, and transport waggons. And 
when the Allied armies entered Germany and crossed the 
Rhine they brought with them their own artillery, and 
ranged their heavy guns across that river, so that now if 
any German army were to gather again and move many 
German cities would be wiped off the map at the word 
"Fire!" But no German army will gather or move. The 
German peasant and workman will not fight again in our 
generation. So our victory was complete — our military 
victory which came after many tragic years. 

But there is another victory to gain, without which all 
the blood of our youth will have been shed without great 
avail to future generations. It is the victory of ideas over 
material force which must still be fought out in the souls 



16 THE WAY TO VICTORY ^ 

of men. It is the victory of lifting the moral power of 
the world above those old devilish forces of rivalry and 
greed which made a jungle of European states from which 
inevitably the Beast came out. In every civilised country 
now there is the passionate desire of men and women who 
went through the horrors of the war, who realised the 
outrage of it against God and humanity, to so alter the 
structure of international relations, and the social attitude 
of mind, so that this thing which has happened in our 
midst shall not come upon us again. They demand this 
as the fruit of sacrifice, and if the statesmen of the world 
fail to devise some plan which shall be a pledge of sanity 
among nations and an alternative to the breeding of man- 
children for cannon fodder in quarrels not in their interest 
or of their making — there will be in my opinion a rage and 
revolt against all present forms of Government, and the 
peoples will rise to overthrow the whole structure of our 
present civilisation in the wild hope that by their own power 
they may gain freedom from the menace of future wars 
and the liberty of their souls and bodies for better pur- 
poses in the scheme of life. 

America and England, speaking the same language, 
obeying the same code of honour, inspired, largely, with 
the same ideals, have a supreme opportunity of lifting the 
world to a higher stage of moral development and of 
deciding the destiny of its peoples. In a closer and more 
understanding friendship between our two nations lies the 
hope of mankind in this time of renaissance, and because 
the youth of America and of England has shed its blood 
on the same fields for the same ideals it would be a crime 
and a tragedy if by small rivalries or petty prejudices we 
lost the opportunity we have of this fellowship in the bet- 
terment of the world. 



PARTY 
FROM FLANDERS TO THE MARNE 



The Saving of Amiens 

In the following chapter I must, for the sake of saving 
space in a book that grows too long, summarize my narra- 
tive of the events which happened between the end of the 
German offensive in Flanders and the beginning of Marshal 
Foch's counter-offensive in July which has led to such won- 
derful success all along the AUied lines. That period cov- 
ered a time of anxious waiting on the British front, when 
the armies of Prince Rupprecht of Bavaria, with twenty- 
nine fresh divisions in reserve, were making ready for 
another hammer-stroke against our lines, biding their time 
until they should know the result of the thrust delivered by 
the German Crown Prince between Soissons and Rheims. 
That blow was struck on May 26, and the enemy with 
overwhelming pressure of numbers broke the French front 
on the Chemin-des-Dames, where English divisions held the 
right flank, and drove the Allied troops across the Marne 
by Chateau-Thierry, with a dire threat to Paris. On the 
greater length of the British front from the Somme to the 
Ypres Canal there were during this time minor engage- 
ments, activity in raiding, and unceasing gun-fire, but on 

17 



18 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

the outer defences of Amiens, on both sides of the Somme, 
four divisions of the AustraHan Corps, commanded by 
General Monash, distinguished themselves by a number of 
small battles which relieved Amiens from the menace 
around it, and inflicted heavy losses on the enemy. At the 
same time the ist Australian Division gave the enemy no 
peace in the neighbourhood of Merris and La Motte, near 
Bailleul, and so cowed the German troops left in the line 
there that they became utterly demoralized. 

May 2 
I WENT down the Australian way this morning, and found 
the officers and men looking very pleased with themselves 
under the hot sun, as they have good reason to be, after 
their splendid capture of Ville-sur-Ancre. They finished 
the mopping-up of that village south of Albert early to- 
day, and the total number of prisoners they have taken now 
amounts to 400, with something like thirty machine-guns. 
All yesterday the number of prisoners steadily mounted 
up, in the reports sent through, as new parties were dis- 
covered in the dug-outs and gathered up. 

The method of the attack reminds me a little of the way 
in which the Australians recaptured Villers-Bretonneux. 
Like that, it was a cut-out process from both sides, and took 
place in the dark, except for a bright moon shining. It 
was not an easy affair, as the ground thereabouts gave 
natural defences to the village of Ville-sur-Ancre. On the 
north of it there is flooded ground, owing to the damming 
of the stream, so that the water is waist deep, and this 
flows into a number of parallel dykes used formerly for 
irrigation purposes by French farmers, which the enemy 
might use in case of need as trenches, up which they could 
enfilade our troops with machine-gun fire. 

South of the village the ground rises into a spur in front 
of the hamlet of Morlancourt, and it was essential to the 
success of the Australian enterprise that this spur should be 
taken, and taken quickly. Also behind Morlancourt itself 



FROM FLANDERS TO THE MARNE 19 

there is a steep rise to a hill on which the Germans have 
posted many machine-guns, with which they can command 
a field of fire round Ville-sur-Ancre. 

It was a daring thing, therefore, to attempt the capture of 
that little place. But the plans were worked out very 
carefully, and the men were keen. The officers were as 
keen as the men, and among them was a colonel who 
planted the Australian flag on Broodseinde Ridge in Sep- 
tember of last year, and was eager to take command of his 
share in this new assault — an inspiring leader whom men are 
glad to follow. 

For some reason unknown, the Germans strengthened 
their garrison that night by sending up reinforcements, so 
that Ville-sur-Ancre had its dug-outs and ditches full of 
men of the 54th Reserve Division and the 183rd. Many 
of these were young fellows, and some of them weedy 
lads with big spectacles, not typical of the German soldier 
at his best. It seems that they were hungry, too, having 
got separated from their rations for a time. But they put 
up a hard fight in the first hours of the attack, and the 
Australians did not have a walk-over, as on a few days 
previously, when the same officer who planted the flag on 
the hill in Flanders went out to a machine-gun post with 
sixteen volunteers and came back with twenty-two prisoners 
and not a single casualty. 

This time it was a small battle — a hundred years ago 
it would have been described as a big battle, but the stand- 
ard changes — extending for over 3500 yards of front, 
behind which the Germans had formidable defences and 
machine-guns sprinkled thickly. While one body of Aus- 
tralians worked north of the village across the swampy 
ground, another body, who had perhaps the hardest task, 
went straight for the spur opposite Morlancourt, with 
orders to work up on the left and join hands with their 
comrades through the village. Those on the left passed 
across the stream without great trouble, though some of 
them had to wade up to their belts. Then, according to 



go THE WAY TO VICTORY 

plan, they drove down parallel dykes towards the village. 
On the right other Australians swept on to the spur. Their 
advance was made all along the line behind a creeping 
barrage. 

There was one obstacle they had to cross which might 
have given great trouble but for the men's quick and skilful 
attack and their enthusiastic courage. It was a long sunken 
road, from 20 to 30 feet steep. In the banks were many 
dug-outs and machine-gun posts, and outside there were 
wire entanglements through which the Australians had to 
force their way. It was likely that this place would be 
crowded with Germans, and they were found there when 
the Australians went to meet them. But they were quickly 
surrounded and overwhelmed, and the Australian success 
was complete. 

June ii 
The Australians do not leave the enemy in peace on their 
sectors of the Front, and the attack they made in the small 
hours of last night was very similar in its operation and 
success to the one done a week or so ago, up by Strazeele, 
when another body of them took a small but important 
ridge, inflicted heavy losses, and brought back 260 prisoners. 
The latest Australian exploit was between Morlancourt 
and Sailly-le-Sec, beyond Amiens, and it seems that their 
total of prisoners will be about 300 when all have come 
down. I saw this morning those who were already back 
from the captured trenches, and they looked a good crowd 
of men, numbering over 200. A good many of them were 
young fellows of the 19 19 class, mixed with older and 
stronger men. The attack surprised them, and after the 
bombardment began they expected to have time to get at 
their machine-guns, but as soon as the barrage lifted, and 
their officers shouted to the men to take up their machine- 
gun positions, they saw the Australians were on them and 
knew they were lost. Their battalions are divided among 
Prussians and Wurtembergers, and it seems that reserves 




21 



22 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

were sent up from the south side of Somme in case the 
AustraHan attack should spread further. 

It was on a front of about 4000 yards, and was over 
7CX) in depth, taking in the whole of a spur or saddle, as 
the Australians call it, overlooking Morlancourt and Sailly- 
le-Sec, which lie low in the marshes. The dash forward 
and the capture of this ground was made with the usual 
spirit of the Australian troops, who look upon these early 
morning adventures as a kind of fierce sport, with a risk 
of death in it that only tunes them up to an intenser vitality. 
But the Australians fight with science as well as spirit, 
because courage alone without the most severe training and 
disciplined action at every moment of the attack, with every 
man working for the team and doing his particular duty 
with the instinct that comes from constant practice, would 
lead certainly to failure. These attacks are planned out 
with the utmost care for minute detail, and rehearsed as 
if it were a ballet, in which every movement is essential 
to the general effect. Said an Australian senior ofiicer: 
"It is like an orchestra in which the various instruments 
are played according to the score." 

It was an orchestra of death last night for the Germans 
in front of Morlancourt, and especially for one battalion 
of the 90th Reserve Infantry Regiment, which, according 
to some of their men, was practically wiped out. Many of 
their losses were from hand-grenades in close fighting after 
the Australians were in their trenches. The prisoners were 
glad of their escape, and, although many of them looked 
haggard after the horror of the night, they ate the rations 
of bully-beef given to them this morning with a healthy 
appetite. One of them told some of our officers that many 
of his brother officers were killed this morning, and that 
they had no chance as soon as the attack was launched. 
He spoke generally about the war and said it was started 
for trade purposes because Germany needed elbow room 
for her growing population and a greater command of the 
world's markets. It was true that in a military way Ger- 



FROM FLANDERS TO THE MARNE 23 

many had started the war, but before that he said the war 
had been started by the alHance between England, France, 
and Russia, which hemmed Germany in. 

When he was asked if he thought they were winning he 
said, "As a German, I hope and beHeve so. If we do not 
win we are utterly lost." 

June 19 
It is fair and pleasant in France during this time, between 
battles, and one forgets some of the grimmer side of the 
business when one sees our men in their camps behind the 
lines under the full foliage of the trees, or watering their 
horses by streams where many flowers grow in the tall 
grass, or taking a rest on the march in forests where the 
-sunlight is glinting down the glades. British, French, and 
American soldiers are wonderfully intermingled now, so 
that one finds the three Allies in the same villages and on 
the same roads and seated at table in the same wayside inns. 

Our most inquisitive eyes are for the Americans, who are 
the latest types to enter this arena, where the battles of the 
world's destiny are being fought. The intonation of their 
voices is a new note in the villages through which one 
passes, and there is a sense of a new chapter of history 
having opened when one asks the way from one of their 
traffic men, or gets a salute in the x\merican style, or meets 
a column of lads on the march with long packs down the 
middle of their backs and a ragtime tune on their lips. 
They are coming in numbers now, in a steady flow which 
laps over wide tracts of country where three years ago our 
new armies were billeted and encamped on their way to 
the fighting-lines. This visible proof of the big numbers 
of these crowds of tall lads who come tramping through 
France as the vanguard of greater armies make one feel 
safer from the horrible menace that has always sprawled 
over France since August of 19 14, and in them is the hope 
that whatever may happen, in danger or in tragedy, the 
worst of all can never happen now. 

Romance has gone from our Army a long time ago. 



24 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

These scenes of war have become too famihar to us for 
any sense of romance, and most of our men are reahsts, to 
whom the adventure of war has become a routine and a 
boredom between hours of abominable danger. But the 
American soldiers are so fresh that romance has not been 
killed for them, and it is all a new and wonderful adventure, 
and we, who are stale to the aspect of things, find a new 
interest in familiar surroundings because of the novelty of 
it all to these newcomers. For all these men are four years 
younger in war than ourselves, and it seems a wonderful 
youth. To them the look of a French village, the first sight 
of a strafed town, the little ways of French peasants, the 
broken English of French children are novel and amusing, 
and they find a huge entertainment in every incident of the 
day, as our old armies did in the summer of 19 14. 

Our own new drafts are splendid, too, and it is to md 
and all of us, I think, a very moving thing to see these lads 
of ours, who have come out with the youngest classes to 
fill up the gaps in the ranks of the older men. Some of 
them look very young, but hard and fine, as they go swing- 
ing by, with their rifles slung, the future heroes of the bat- 
tles that, alas ! must be fought before the end comes. We 
are ready now for any attack that the enemy may launch 
upon our front, and I give him fair warning, for what it is 
worth, that when he attacks next time he will come up 
against lines of men who will make him pay as great a price 
for any gain as those who held him round Arras, who flung 
him out of Villers-Bretonneux, and smashed assault after 
assault between Givenchy and Bethune. 

II 

Khaki and Blue 

June 30 

The last day of June finds us still waiting for the next 
phase of the German offensive, which began with enormous 



FROM FLANDERS TO THE MARNE 25 

effort on March 21, when our situation was serious. Look- 
ing back on these last three months, especially the begin- 
ning of them, when for several weeks our armies were hard 
pressed and had to fight continual rear-guard actions against 
overwhelming numbers, when our losses were heavy and 
our troops had to give ground which had been gained by 
desperate and heroic endeavour in the early battles of 
Flanders and the Somme, one has a sense of thankfulness 
that the enemy was checked before he could do greater 
damage, and that we forced him to give us time to re- 
organize and build up new strength. 

Our armies, with young drafts that have filled up gaps, 
are now strong in defence again, and during the last two 
months, while the enemy has been preparing for fresh as- 
saults on a prodigious scale, an immense amount of work 
has been done behind our lines and in our lines to give us 
greater security when the next thrust comes. 

During the last three months of history, full of menace 
and tragedy and terror in their early days, one thing has 
happened which ought to count for something in the fu- 
ture of the world. It is the closer comradeship and finer 
understanding between the French and British Armies, and 
between the British soldiers and the French people. In all 
the experiences which followed March 21 our men were 
struck most by the tragic plight and courage of the vil- 
lagers and country folk, who were caught in the moving 
tide of war. Shells came smashing into some of their 
towns before they could escape, and some of them were 
killed, and many villages and hamlets which had been safe 
behind our line, so that the fields were cultivated as though 
in a world away from war, were brought suddenly into 
the danger zone. The women there were wonderful, and 
young girls gallant beyond all words of praise, and it is 
splendid to remember that during those bad days the ad- 
miration and pity of our men for these defenceless people 
were translated into helpful acts which have left a deep 
impression in France. Amidst the traffic of guns and 



S6 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

transport, when our armies were falling back with the en- 
emy close upon them, our Tommies crowded civilians into 
lorries and wagons, fed them with their own rations, car- 
ried their babies for them, and rescued their old people, at 
the risk of their own lives, from villages under shell-fire. 
These things will not be forgotten. 

During that time also there was a new brotherhood of 
arms between French and British soldiers. The French 
realized that our armies had been confronted with the full 
and frightful weight of German hordes, and that our line, 
strung out too thinly for its numbers, had sustained the 
thrust of so many German divisions. When our stricken 
troops had fought themselves out, not without inflicting 
the heaviest losses upon the enemy, French troops poured 
up from Amiens to Flanders, and that new strength assisted 
in bringing the Germans to a standstill. It was then that 
the brotherhood of the French and British armies was sealed 
as never before. Fighting men of both nations inter- 
mingled. They fought side by side in battles round Me- 
teren and Vierstraat, and the French at Kemmel under a 
terrible bombardment — Verdun was a bagatelle to it, I was 
told by those French officers — knew what British troops 
had faced during all battles in FlandCiS last year, and had 
a deeper understanding of British courage. Our men were 
loud in praise of the French troops, startled by their splen- 
did physique, for on the whole they are taller and bigger 
fellows than ours, and full of admiration for their skill 
and gallantry. For almost the first time during this war 
great bodies of French and British troops were intermin- 
gled — we have been very aloof from each other until then 
— and it has created a mutual esteem which will not disap- 
pear. 

Then a few weeks ago came the attack on the French at 
Chemin-des-Dames, and on the right of the French be- 
tween Cerny and Berry-au-Bac. There were four English 
divisions — the 50th, the 8th, the 21st, with the 25th in sup- 
port, who had been sent down there to have a quiet time, 



FROM FLANDERS TO THE MARNE 27 

after having suffered exceedingly in fighting against over- 
whelming odds since March 21. Their strength included 
a considerable number of new drafts who had never been 
under fire. 

Well, what happened belongs already to history, though 
-not all its details have yet been told. The Germans con- 
centrated over forty divisions secretly behind the Chemin- 
des-Dames, and forced their way through the French and 
British lines, and advanced to Chateau-Thierry. The 
French General Staff and all the French of^cers state that 
the British divisions, weak as they were and faced by heavy 
odds, fought with the most heroic and stubborn courage 
until the enemy had been driven down to Fismes, far be- 
low them on the left, so that their remnants had to fall back 
to the line of the River Vesle, and make a new stand there. 
Afterwards they fought with and among the French until 
the middle of this month, and French soldiers cannot say 
too much about the gallant spirit of **Nos Tommies," who 
share their rations and their risks. 

It was a tragic business for these divisions of ours, but 
when all is told the heroism of these men who made a last 
stand on the River Aisne wall shine out in the pages of 
history. The general outline has been told, especially with 
reference to the 15th Division, on the left by Craonne, and 
the 2 1st, on the right by Berry-au-Bac. Both these divi- 
sions came under terrific gun-fire on the morning of the at- 
tack, and the German artillery, not satisfied with its effect 
on the line of the 21st Division, withdrew their infantry 
which were being raked by machine-gun and rifie fire, and 
started another and more violent bombardment until our 
defensive lines were destroyed. 

The 8th Division who were in the centre of the British 
line had the same desperate adventure. They were holding 
a line of about 10,000 yards — about six miles. For some 
days they were delighted with their situation, and thought 
it Paradise after the Somme battlefields. They were on 
a wooded plateau above the river and canal of the Aisne, 



28 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

with lines of hills in front of them, and behind them an- 
other chain of hills. 

It was beautiful country, with hardly sound of gun to 
break its quietude, and the weather was gloriously warm, 
so that they used to bathe in the canal and lie about bask- 
ing. They could see the German trenches some 2000 yards 
away, and there was never any sniping if they showed 
themselves, and no sign of abnormal movement in the 

enemy's lines. 

"A blooming picnic," said Tommy, very happy with him- 
self. But in the afternoon of May 26 a telephone message 
came over, breaking this spell of tranquillity. It was a 
message to say that the enemy intended to attack on the 
Chemin-des-Dames next day, and that the British troops 
must prepare for battle. 

The infantry assault began about four in the morning, 
and by five o'clock reports were received at headquarters 
that the enemy was attacking the battle zone and that all 
units in the outpost line had been cut off to a man. At 
that time the fog was so thick that men could see only forty 
to fifty yards ahead. At five minutes past six a pigeon 
message, dated 5.15 a.m., was received from the colonel 
of the Royal Berks, saying that he and his headquarters 
staff were surrounded. ''Germans threw bombs down dug- 
out," he wrote, "and passed on. Appear to approach from 
right in considerable strength. No idea what has hap- 
pened elsewhere. Holding out in hopes of relief." 

That was one of the few messages received from men on 
the other side of the river up there in the outpost line. 
The thrust of the Germans seems to have fallen first, as 
far as the 8th Division was involved, on the right, and the 
men, holding and fighting desperately, were gradually 
forced back, except where the Berkshires were still hold- 
ing their ground. Reinforcements from a Lancashire regi- 
ment were sent forward in support, and the troops con- 
tinued to resist stubbornly, causing the enemy heavy losses, 
until they were borne down by the overwhelming weight of 



FROM FLANDERS TO THE MARNE 29 

numbers, the Germans using Tanks against those on the 
left. 

By 6.30 that morning the brigade on the right had fallen 
back to the hne of the river at Germicourt. Meanwhile 
the troops holding the centre and left had been fiercely at- 
tacked from about five o'clock, and these, including North- 
umberlands, who were very gallant, held their positions in 
the battle zone against the repeated onslaughts, until the 
Germans crossed the little River Miette in a turning move- 
ment from the south-east, taking them in flank and rear. 

After that, British troops who remained then fought with 
the French for nearly a fortnight more, until the Germans 
were definitely brought to a dead halt on the Marne. Dur- 
ing that time French *Toilus" and their officers showed a 
fine spirit of comradeship with our lads, and the French 
Army as a whole knows now that our divisions fought like 
heroes from first to last, not yielding ground until they were 
utterly overwhelmed by numbers. And our army knows 
that the French troops, faced by the same great odds, were 
most glorious in the way they fought back, step by step, 
with heroic self-sacrifice, until the peril was averted. 

There can be no misunderstanding between these French 
and British soldiers, who fought as brothers in arms in 
that long battle when the fate of France and England was 
at stake. The people of both nations must know these 
things, and remember them. 

Ill 

Australians and Americans 

July 4 
By their surprise attack this morning the Australians have 
taken possibly 1500 prisoners in an advance of one and a 
half miles on a four-mile front, including the village of 
Hamel and the trench system beyond it south of the Somme. 
Their own losses are astonishingly light. 



30 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

When I went down into the Australian area this morn- 
ing it was difficult to believe that the attack had taken place, 
for there were none of the usual scenes which follow a 
battle, however successful, showing the price that must be 
paid nearly always for victory. There was no great traf- 
fic of ambulances on the roads. I passed several casualty 
clearing-stations, above which the Red Cross flags waved, 
but their tents were empty, and there was nothing doing 
at that hour in the morning. There was no long trail of 
hghtly wounded men. 

Even the guns seemed no more noisy than on any fine 
morning when there is good visibility for harassing fire; 
and behind the lines, at the headquarters of the divisions 
engaged, there was an air of tranquillity which did not 
suggest a morning of battle. The truth is that the enemy 
was so utterly surprised, and the Australians were so per- 
fectly successful, that the whole action was completed an 
hour or so after its start, hundreds of prisoners had been 
sent down under escort, and the record of a brilliant little 
victory was already being written. 

The Tanks, which co-operated with the infantry, were 
one of the main causes of the surprise and overthrow of 
the German defenders. The German prisoners, including 
a battalion commander and two adjutants, are very sick 
men because they are now in our hands. They confess 
that up to three o'clock this morning they had not the faint- 
est idea that they were going to be attacked. 

Our artillery in this region was very strong, and their 
fire was so planned that immediately the attack opened it 
would neutralize the enemies' guns while the infantry ad- 
vanced. This, indeed, is what happened, and at eight min- 
utes past three o'clock this morning, when the bombard- 
ment opened with intense drumfire and with concentrated 
counter-battery work, the German artillery reply was so 
late and so feeble that the Australians were well on their 
way to their last objectives before the first shells fell on 
the old German front line. 



FROM FLANDERS TO THE MARNE 31 

The enemy holding the ground south of Vaux-sur- 
Somme garrisoning the village of Hamel and Vaire Wood 
and the trench system on the other side of Hamel, belonged 
to three divisions of Prussians and Rhinelanders. These 
divisions were the 43rd, the 77th, and the 13th, the last, 
who were all men of the Rhine, having come down lately 
to this sector from the area round Lens. They had been 
suffering from the prevailing epidemic of influenza, and 
were not intending to attack us, hoping, rather, for a quiet 
time, but kept on tenterhooks by the presence of the Aus- 
tralians in the front of them, who do not give their ene- 
mies much peace. 

There was the usual amount of harassing fire from our 
guns in the early part of the night, neither more or less 
than that, and the Australian brigades took up their assem- 
bly places in dead quietude, doing their best to prevent any 
sound of human movement from alarming the men on the 
other side of No Man's Land ; they were all on the top note 
of confidence and enthusiasm in believing that victory was 
going to be easy and quick as soon as the guns got to work. 
At one place, in front of the German earthworks called 
Pear Trench, which bulged out in a small salient, the Aus- 
tralians had to creep up close and lie there before the at- 
tack; 3.10 was the minute when the infantry were to move, 
and two minutes before then the drum-fire began with a 
deafening roar. 

'It reminded me of Pozieres," said an Australian officer, 
who wears a wound stripe dating from that old battle. It 
reminded him of Pozieres because of the tremendous con- 
centration of artillery and its tumult of fire. 

Under this widespread flight of shells — the bombard- 
ment extended over a wide front — the Tanks started for- 
ward. Smoke screens were sent up in front of them in 
dense clouds, which lay low on the ground to hide them 
from the German anti-Tank guns, and into this fog they 
went, nosing their way at a steady pace. 

Beside the officer and crews shut up inside their steel 



32 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

walls working the engines and the guns, there were three 
or four men sitting on top utterly exposed. Their legs 
dangled over the sides of the Tanks like those of boys go- 
ing for a joy ride, and in this way they rode into hell- 
fire, as it seemed to men watching them, because of the 
smoke screens and the flashes of the shells hty^A. The 
infantry followed in waves, loose open lines of men, ex- 
tending forward as they went close to the barrage rolling 
slowly on ahead of them, so close that they took the risk 
of being wounded by our own fire, but preferred this risk 
to the more deadly one of lagging behind and giving time 
for German machine-gunners to get to work. 

There were only a few places where the German ma- 
chine-guns opened fire and gave trouble. One of those po- 
sitions was in Pear Trench, where no Tank could get into 
position, and here the enemy fought stubbornly, firing his 
machine-guns with persistent tattoo until they were rushed 
by the Australians. 

Elsewhere some of the German anti-Tank guns fired 
some rounds, and three or four of our Tanks were put out 
of action for a while, but their casualties were small, and 
most of them rounded up large numbers of Germans, 
sweeping the country with their fire, manoeuvring over all 
this ground with the infantry in their wake, and returning 
safely to our side of the lines when their morning's work 
was done. 

All this battle happened in a kind of twilight. At three 
o'clock there was the faint light of dawn over the trenches 
and the woods, and ten minutes later there was fair visi- 
bility for 300 yards ahead, as tested on other mornings by 
Australian staff officers. In this half light, fogged over 
certain lines by the smoke wreaths, the Australians made 
their way, shouting for the enemy to surrender. In most 
cases the Germans gave no trouble, but held their hands 
up meekly, and came out of their trenches and dug-outs, 
huddling together without their weapons and showing no 
sign of fight. They had been utterly surprised, and were 



FROM FLANDERS TO THE MARNE 33 

caught so quickly that our troops were through them and 
beyond them before they could put up a defence with any 
hope of holding their ground. They submitted to the in- 
evitable fate that was on them, and were glad to follow 
their escorts back before their own guns should annihilate 
them. 

Above the fog and in the pale sky over this battlefield 
flew many aeroplanes. They were like a swarm, of bats 
over the heads of the infantry, and swooped low to drop 
bombs on the German positions. They flung many bombs 
into the little ruined village of Hamel, making a hell of 
the place and lighting fires there in advance of the assault. 

Many of the Germans had their gas-masks on when they 
came out of holes in the ground, and held their hands up 
because they believed that the smoke clouds sent over to 
screen the Tanks were poison gas. During all this first 
phase of the attack there was hardly a sign from the Ger- 
man artillery, which was kept very silent by the concen- 
trated fire of our batteries, and the Australians were able 
to wander over their captured ground in great ease, and 
every man among them searched for a prisoner whom he 
could claim as his very own. The few wounded were car- 
ried back on stretchers, and the lightly wounded men 
strolled back with amazing tales of their walk-over. It was 
only later in the morning that the German guns from other 
directions turned their fire on to the captured ground, and 
especially on the village of Hamel, which for the first hour 
or two had been as quiet as any hamlet a hundred miles 
behind the lines, except for a few fires burning after our 
airmen had dropped their bombs. 

Meanwhile, on ground north of the attack, other bodies 
of Australians made raids and demonstrations and small 
holding attacks, and in this work of support to the main 
thrust captured a good many prisoners and machine-guns, 
although that was not really part of their programme. 

It was a great day for the Australians, and this morn- 
ing I found their officers merry and bright, though most 



34. THE WAY TO VICTORY 

of them had had no sleep and had an anxious day ahead 
of them. 'The joy of the thing," said one of them, "is 
that we have taken the initiative again, and that is much 
better than waiting for attack. It is better for us and worse 
for the enemy. Our men have their tails waving over 
their heads, and the Germans are very down to-day." This 
brilliant little success has come to us on American Inde- 
pendence Day, and is the best celebration of that historical 
event, which has a deeper significance for us now that the 
American soldiers are so strong on the soil of France. 

Many little villages I passed through to-day were be- 
flagged by the French in honour of their Allies, and in 
many places of France and Belgium there were reviews 
and celebrations of America's national feast day. 

July 5 
In the Australian attack south of the Somme yesterday 
morning the enemy, whose guns had been almost silenced 
during the battle by intense counter-battery work, shelled 
some of our new positions rather heavily, and in the eve- 
ning made three counter-attacks. These seem to have been 
directed on the wings and centre of the Australian line, 
but were feeble and unsuccessful. Groups of German ma- 
chine-gunners and infantry established themselves within 
fifty yards of the Australians, who were annoyed by this 
close approach and decided not to tolerate it. So last night 
a number of them went out and drove in the German out- 
posts and brought back another batch of prisoners to the 
number of something over fifty. 

I was unable to mention yesterday one of the most in- 
teresting features of this action, and that was the share 
taken in the fighting by American troops. There were not 
many of them compared with the strength of the Aus- 
tralian brigades, but these few companies were eager to go 
forward and meet the enemy face to face for the first 
time, and to prove their fighting quality. They have proved 
it up to the hilt of that sword which is in their temper and 



FROM FLANDERS TO THE MARNE 35 

spirit, and the Australian officers with whom I spoke yes- 
terday and to-day all told me that the Americans attacked 
with astonishing ardour, discipline, and courage. If they 
had any fault at all it was over-eagerness to advance, so 
that they could hardly be restrained from going too rap- 
idly behind the wide belt of our own shell-fire as the bar- 
rage rolled forward. 

It was an historic day for them and for us. It was 
the Fourth of July, the day of American Independence, 
when, as I described yesterday, many French villages quite 
close to the fighting-lines were all fluttering with the tri- 
colour and the stars and stripes in honour of their com- 
radeship in arms, and symbolizing the hope of France in 
the united strength of the armies that now defend her soil. 
And it was the first time that American soldiers have fought 
on the British front. They understood that upon their few 
companies fighting as platoons among the Australians rested 
the honour of the United States in this historic episode. 
Their general and his officers addressed them before the 
battle, and called upon them to ''make good." 

"You are going in with the Australians," they said, 
"and those lads always deliver the goods. We expect you 
to do the same. We shall be very disappointed if you do 
not fulfil the hopes and belief we have in you." 

The American boys listened to these words with a light 
in their eyes. They were ready to take all risks to prove 
their mettle. They were sure of themselves and tuned up 
to a high pitch of nervous intensity at the thought of going 
into battle on the Fourth of July for the first time. There 
were thousands of other American soldiers desperately 
eager to go with them, though a battle is not a pleasant 
pastime. But all their training, all their purpose in this 
war, all their pride in their own regiments, lead up to the 
fighting-line, and they wanted to pass the test of it, and 
measure their spirit against its terrors and dangers. In 
the hearts of these men, new to war and fresh out in 
France, the adventure of battle is greater than its chance 



36 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

of pain or death, and calls to the hunter's instinct in them. 
So they went gladly and fiercely, strange as it may seem 
to people who after four years of war look only on the 
tragic side of it, and the Australians had many requests 
from American companies who were not allowed a share 
to go with them. "Can't we lend you a hand ?" they asked. 
"Can't we be of any use to you?" 

In one case outside the order of battle their offer was 
accepted. The Australians took so many prisoners that 
they found it difficult for the moment to provide a proper 
escort for them from the forward enclosure to the back. 
"Some of your lads might help us conduct the prisoners," 
said the Australian officer in charge of this work. They 
did help. No German prisoners have had such a strong 
and proud escort as that provided by the Americans, who 
had not the luck, as they thought it, to take part in the 
actual fighting with their comrades who had gone forward 
with the Australian infantry and Tanks into the smoke 
clouds and the light of shell-fire. Up there those lads from 
Illinois and Chicago were engulfed in the frightful excite- 
ment of battle, and found it an easier and less fearful thing 
than they had thought because of the utter surprise of the 
enemy and the silencing of his guns. More formidable 
to them was the intensity of our own gun-fire, which swept 
the ground in front of them, close to them, with a back- 
ward blast of shell-splinters and an infernal tumult of 
drumfire. They could not tell at first whether it was our 
barrage or the enemy's. They seemed to be in the centre 
of its fury, and were surprised to find themselves alive, 
still moving forward with their comrades, and with dark 
lines of Australians on either side of them. 

"The barrage passed like a storm," said an Australian of- 
ficer, "leaving behind perfect peace," and it was in this 
peace of the battlefield, like the peace of death, that the 
Americans and Australians met groups of men who were 
the enemy, strange, uncanny creatures, many of them in 
their gas-masks, and with their hands up in submission, 



FROM FLANDERS TO THE MARNE 37 

knowing that surrender was their only chance of life. 
Those who showed fight, like some who used their machine- 
guns to the last, had hardly a thread of chance. The 
Americans were not tender-hearted, in that eighty min- 
utes of advance to the ultimate objective, with any enemy 
who tried to bar their way. They went forward with 
fixed bayonets, shouting the word Lusitania as a battle 
cry. Again and again the Australians heard that w^ord on 
American lips, as though there were something in the sound 
of it strengthening to their own souls and terrifying to the 
enemy. They might well have been terrified, any Ger- 
mans who heard that name, for to American soldiers it is 
a call for vengeance. It is a curious fact that with less 
provocation than the French, who see their own towns de- 
stroyed before their eyes, and a great belt of ruin across 
their country, and a world of tragedy where their own fam- 
ilies are separated from them by the German lines, the 
American soldiers have come over here with such a stern 
spirit, and with no kind of forgiveness in their hearts for 
the men who have caused all this misery. To-day young 
American soldiers who have come out of the battle wounded 
tell their experiences, and through them all is the convic- 
tion that the Germans are ''bad men," and that death is 
a just punishment for all they have done. One young cor- 
poral, with a most boyish look, described in a simple way 
how before the battle he was placed in charge of twenty- 
four of his comrades because he had worked hard and done 
his best to become a good soldier, and how then he and 
they had gathered together the night before going into the 
line and had resolved to inflict as much loss upon the enemy 
as they could because that was their duty. Not knowing 
that they would ever meet again in this life they then shook 
hands with each other, and the young corporal placed him- 
self at the head of the platoon and went with them up to 
the support line, and afterwards to the front line. None 
of them had seen a front-line trench before, as their regi- 
ment had only come to France a few weeks ago, and for 



38 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

the first time they saw shell-fire, and then, two minutes 
before the attack, a barrage. It astounded them so that 
they held their breath, but kept their nerve. ''It was a 
real Fourth of July celebration," said this boy. The line 
of country in front of them to Hamel village, and the 
trench system beyond, was over a little ridge, and then into 
a valley, and then over another small ridge or fold of 
ground. In the valley they were held up for a few min- 
utes by some barbed wire and machine-gun fire, but got 
forward and did not meet much trouble in Hamel. It 
was beyond that in the trench system that the Germans 
fought hard, though some surrendered without fighting. 
Two of them ran forward, shouting "Kamerad" to the 
young American corporal, who did not understand their 
meaning, and would have killed them but for an officer 
who told him not to touch them. A little later he was 
wounded by a bullet, and as he stumbled to his knees two 
Germans ran at him with bayonets. He had his finger on 
the trigger of the rifle and shot one dead as he came for- 
ward. But the other drew near with his bayonet lowered. 

"Then," said this corporal, who is no more than a boy 
in looks, "I knew I had to get up and fight him like a man." 
He stood up in spite of his wound, and with his fixed bay- 
onet turned aside the lunge which the German made to kill 
him, and then swung up his rifle and cracked the man's 
skull. 

Another American corporal, twenty-one years of age, 
was wounded three times, but killed seven Germans, which, 
as he reckons, is two for each wound, and one over. He 
had an astounding series of episodes in which it was his life 
or the enemy's. After going through the enemy's wire 
near Vaire Wood he found himself under fire from a ma- 
chine-gun hidden in a wheatfield, and was wounded badly 
in the thigh with an armour-piercing bullet designed for 
Tanks. He fell at once, but staggering up again, threw a 
bomb at the German gun-crew and killed four of them. 
One ran and disappeared into a dug-out. The American 



FROM FLANDERS TO THE MARNE 39 

corporal followed him down, and the man turned to leap 
at him in the darkness, but he killed him with his bayonet. 
He went up from the dug-out again to the light of day 
above, and a German soldier wounded him again, but paid 
the price for the blow by his own Hfe. Another German 
attacked him, wounded him for the third time, and was 
killed by this lad whose bayonet was so quick. That made 
six Germans, and the seventh was a machine-gunner, whom 
he shot. By this time the American corporal was weak 
and bleeding from his wounds, and while he lay, unable to 
go further, he hoisted a rag on to his rifle as a signal to 
the stretcher-bearers, who came and carried him back. 

The American companies had very light casualties and 
are satisfied that they accounted for many of the enemy. 
They are glad of that in a simple, serious way, and the 
spirit shown by these American soldiers in action on our 
British front for the first time seems to me, in spite of their 
youth, like that of Cromwell's Ironsides, stern and terrible 
to the enemy, who to them is an enemy of God and man- 
kind. Before this war is over the German soldiers will 
come to know and fear that spirit which is a new revela- 
tion on this Western Front, for our men and the French, 
fierce as they are in attack, are different in temperament, 
and are inspired by different psychological laws. As yet 
the Germans do not know much about the army that is 
growing in might against them. The prisoners I saw to- 
day under guard by the Australians had no idea how many 
American soldiers there are in France, and were astonished 
to meet some of them in this last battle. They believe 
that we exaggerate their numbers grotesquely in order to 
scare them, and they have been utterly deceived by their 
rulers. 

These Germans now in our hands, after the brilliant at- 
tack by the Australians with these American companies, 
impressed me certainly as being among the best quality of 
men I have yet seen taken on our front. Rhinelanders, 
Brandenburgers, and Westphalians, they were tall men in 



40 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

the prime of young manhood, and obviously well nour- 
ished. They said themselves to our officers that though 
their rations have deteriorated since the early days of the 
war, and one man spoke with the authority of four years' 
service, they are not at all bad, as whatever happens about 
food in Germany the soldiers are provided first with 
enough to keep up their strength. They were tired and 
spent after their battle, and lay about on the grass, sleep- 
ing in every attitude of extreme weariness, but their dis- 
cipline is still so good, even on our side of the lines, that 
when an Australian sergeant gave an order in their own 
tongue — he knows it perfectly, having been a student for 
four years at Charlottenburg — the feldwehel, or German 
sergeant-major, sprang up at attention as though a bell 
had rung in his ear, and the other men rapidly obeyed the 
command to fetch their rations. 

There are few details of the general battle which I can 
add to my account of it yesterday. It went absolutely ac- 
cording to plan and without a hitch. The enemy's losses 
were great, not only on the field, but behind his lines, where 
our artillery did great carnage. Many of his guns were 
put out of action by direct hits, and yesterday, when he 
sent up horses to try and drag them away, they were scat- 
tered by our fire and failed in the attempt. The Austral- 
ians captured large numbers of machine-guns, and many 
of these were at once turned on to the enemy and fired all 
day with his own ammunition, as every Australian ma- 
chine-gunner is perfectly familiar with the handling of 
the German weapon. The Commander-in-Chief has sent 
the Australian corps and the American companies his con- 
gratulations on their successful operation, which was car- 
ried out with such skill and gallantry. Certainly the Aus- 
tralians have never lost the initiative since the day of March 
26, when at the end of the first phase of the German of- 
fensive they arrived on the battlefield with one battalion, 
increased to four that afternoon, when they thrust back the 
German outposts and helped to bar the way to Amiens. 



FROM FLANDERS TO THE MARNE 41 

Since then they have made several successful attacks, driv- 
ing the enemy's lines back from Villers-Bretonneux and 
the valley of the Somme in front of Morlancourt, and cap- 
turing many hundreds of prisoners. But yesterday was 
one of their finest achievements because of its rapid suc- 
cess, the lightness of their own losses, and the number of 
prisoners, and the Australian soldiers who were lightly 
wounded came riding happily back on the tops of the Tanks, 
of whom they are now hero-worshippers because of their 
great share in the success of the day. 



The French Advance Across the Marne 

July i8 
While the battle in Champagne is being fought by French 
and American troops, the British armies from Flanders 
to the Somme remain on the alert. 

This morning's news of Foch's dramatic counter-blow 
between Soissons and Chateau-Thierry, with its menace of 
turning the enemy's right flank, will have great effect on our 
men. It is what we have been hoping for. It is in the 
tradition of the Foch school of strategy, which he has had 
to deny himself so long because of the enemy superiority 
in numbers at the beginning of the offensive. But now 
at last the balance of numbers on the Western Front has 
begun to tip in our favour, and Foch is able to use his re- 
serves with greater freedom and surety of striking power. 
The enormous patience of the French general, whose motto 
is attack, was put to the severest strain after March 21, 
when for many weeks he had to husband his forces and 
remain on the defensive. But this morning, the hour of 
waiting passed and, after checking the enemy's enormous 
efforts on each side of Rheims, he seized the psychological 



42 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

moment to strike him on the right wing of the German 
saHent between the Aisne and the Marne. 

Our own future depends intimately on the progress of 
that French counter-stroke, and on the necessity of the 
German Crown Prince for more men to replace all those 
dead and bleeding soldiers who lie on the slopes and in the 
valleys east and west of Rheims. He is as deeply en- 
gaged now as he was at Verdun, and he cannot call off 
the battle which he began after months of preparation. 
Opposite the British front, in some old chateau of France, 
behind the German lines far beyond the zone of our gun- 
fire, there is a group of men who must be reading the re- 
ports from the Crown Prince's staff with extreme anxiety 
and nervous tension. 

Chief among them is Prince Rupprecht of Bavaria, com- 
manding the group of armies against the British front, and 
with him are his army commanders and corps commanders, 
amongst them Sixt von Armin, who was our opponent in 
the first battles of the Somme, and von Bernhardi, who, it 
is said, has the most passionate hatred of us among all the 
German generals. These men have been preparing another 
wide offensive against the British front. 

They are the men who have their eyes on the coast as 
the goal of their desires, and are ready even now to make 
another desperate bid for it. They have been working 
hard since their previous efforts came to a dead halt, after 
heavy losses. Hundreds of thousands of men under their 
command have been put to the uttermost strain, building 
light railways over the old battlefields, making and repair- 
ing roads, digging new gun-pits and communication 
trenches, and weaving a network of telephone wires so that 
on a given morning all the material of war shall be at hand 
for his assaulting troops, and every means of communica- 
tion shall be ready for them. 

It all takes longer time than they hoped to give to the 
job, because they knew that every week that passed en- 
abled us to dig stronger Hues against them and reorgan- 



FROM FLANDERS TO THE MARNE 43 

ize and strengthen our defensive power. Their programme 
of speed has been slowed down by the epidemic of in- 
fluenza, which hit them badly several weeks ago, and spread 
with such virulence that many of their battalions were in- 
capable of hard work, and hundreds of men went sick in 
many divisions. It seems to be burning itself out now, 
this fever which makes men fall ofY their horses and sink 
at the knees quite suddenly, with a high temperature, that 
keeps them weak for six days or so; but even now there 
are large numbers of cases, limiting the output of work in 
the preparations for attack. 

Other things have delayed and weakened them. Brit- 
ish aeroplanes yesterday, as every day for months past, 
have flown low over their lines and back areas, bombing 
and machine-gunning their working parties, causing heavy 
casualties, and doing destructive work over their railways, 
aerodromes, camps, and dumps. And British guns have 
used every fine hour to range on their batteries and trenches 
and roads and railheads, causing more casualties and de- 
stroying work newly done, so that it has to be begun again. 
More delay irritating to German generals, who know the 
value of time. More delay and greater demoralization of 
troops holding the line. 

But Rupprecht and his generals, ready to begin this of- 
fensive against the British, have now another anxiety which 
may spoil all their plans. Their elaborate preparations are 
useless if they have not enough men to throw in at the mo- 
ment arranged. 

If this great attack east and west of Rheims had gone 
well, he would still have enough men, and more than 
enough, to strike with immense strength, such as he is bound 
to have, considering the defensive preparations we have 
made. But what if orders come to send divisions to the 
help of the Crown Prince, now seriously jeopardized by the 
French counter-blow? The whole problem of Rupprecht 
and his generals and the history of the next few weeks rest 
on that development of events. If Prince Rupprecht of 



44 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

Bavaria can keep his armies together the offensive will 
flame along the British front and all our men will be in- 
volved in a life and death struggle. If his divisions are 
called away to help in that other battle these commanders 
of the German armies in the north may have to be content 
with mere holding actions, or with inactivity. 

So in the north of this Western Front the British and 
German armies are both hungering for news of what is 
happening in Champagne, knowing that upon events there 
depend their own action in the immediate future. It is 
even possible that any French success between the Aisne 
and the Marne will hasten the offensive against the Brit- 
ish front, and that instead of sending many men down 
south Rupprecht will strike with the object of keeping Al- 
lied troops away from that scene of action. Twenty-four 
hours more of history may decide which plans the German 
High Command thinks best, but to-day anyhow they must 
be thinking hard, filled with doubt and apprehension. They 
are playing all but their last cards as far as offensive ac- 
tion and initiative may carry them. They must do what- 
ever they do within the next two months or so, and after 
that they will be for ever on the defensive, because their 
reserve power cannot maintain the same level as ours with 
the American legions behind us. 

The fate of the world will be decided before the leaves 
turn brown on this year's trees, and perhaps before the 
harvest is gathered in. I believe that it will be decided in 
our favour. 

July 23 
Between the Marne and the Aisne the enemy is fighting 
desperately, and French and American troops are forcing in 
the sides of the salient and crushing him into a narrowing 

space. 

Our British troops of the 51st, 15th, and 62nd Divisions 
slipped quietly away from our own front just before Foch 



FROM FLANDERS TO THE MARNE 45 

was ready to deliver his counter-blow. They are men 
who have fought in many of our great battles, and have 
won the highest honours of war. These English and Scot- 
tish battalions have already shattered some of his best di- 
visions and made many prisoners. I saw some of them 
just before they left our front, saw them marching and 
manoeuvring, looking fine and gallant men. I saw the Scot- 
tish boys of the 51st in their camps and billets and tramp- 
ing down long roads between the bronzing wheat-fields, 
with their pipers leading them, as I passed their brothers 
the other day near Meteren, and their officers told me that 
these lads would make good soldiers in attack, and there 
was no need to be told, because they had the look of it. 
Three days ago they went into battle on ground unknown 
to them in that rugged country below Rheims, and these 
boys have beaten back the strongest German troops. They 
were set a hard task. The English and Scottish battalions 
were ordered to attack on the eastern side of the salient be- 
low Rheims, where the enemy had massed strong concen- 
trations of men and guns for a break through to Epernay, 
and where at the time he was expecting French counter- 
attacks. 

The Germans there were on high ground on each side 
of the valley of the Ardre, very rugged and wild, so that 
they were in strong defensive positions. Dense woods in 
full foliage, Rheims Wood, north of the river, and Courton 
Wood and King's Wood, south of the river, screened their 
movement and their guns to the south-west of Rheims. 
They had strong garrisons well forward in the towns of 
Marfaux, Bouilly, and St.-Euphraise, and other villages 
behind. 

After several hours' bombardment of the German po- 
sitions our battalions advanced upon the enemy. They 
were handicapped by a complete ignorance of the ground, 
except by a hurried study of maps, but the officers led them 
towards their objectives, and they went forward with short, 



46 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

sharp rushes, with good discipHne and high courage. South 
of the River Ardre the Scots of the 51st Division were 
rapid in advance, and swept round Courton Wood, and 
made a number of prisoners. 

North of the river, Enghsh battahons of the 62nd Di- 
vision advanced along the Rheims Wood to the small town 
of Marfaux, where they found themselves faced by heavy 
forces of Germans. They stormed the place with repeated 
efforts to capture it, in spite of very murderous gun-fire 
which was flung over by German batteries of field-guns and 
heavies. They were unable to take the town on that day 
— the 20th — though they inflicted an immense number of 
casualties upon the defending troops and took prisoners 
from three German divisions. 

The German Staff moved up their reserves with orders 
to hold Marfaux at all costs, and one division was from the 
fresh reserve of the Crown Prince. Nevertheless, on the 
following day the British troops made a good deal of prog- 
ress, gradually breaking the resistance of the enemy and 
taking the villages of La Nappe and Bouilly, with consid- 
erable booty in machine-guns. They also recovered twelve 
French 75's which the enemy had captured in May last. 

That day our men reached King's Wood, and since then 
the 51st and 62nd Divisions have pushed forward slowly 
but steadily through Marfaux and other places against 
strong and stubborn defenders and under severe fire. The 
prisoners they took on the first days of their fighting were 
entirely ignorant of the French counter-offensive on the 
west of their salient, forty miles or so away. 

July 26 
Gradually, after the monstrous efforts of the enemy to 
smash us to pieces from the opening of his offensive on 
March 21, we are regaining power of the initiative, and 
it is now the Germans who have to withstand surprise at- 
tacks. 



FROM FLANDERS TO THE MARNE 47 

On a big scale they were mightily surprised by General 
Foch's counter-offensive, believing that he was still with- 
out reserves to put his own theories into practice, and on a 
smaller scale they were utterly surprised by the attack a 
few days ago between Moreuil and Montdidier. Our 
Tanks played a part in causing this surprise, in co-operation 
with the French infantry. 

The French general in command called on our Tank 
headquarters, and explained his idea. He is a believer in 
Tanks, and said that if he could have the services of a 
score or so he could capture some important ground held 
by the enemy as a stepping-stone to Amiens, and round up 
many prisoners if luck helped a little. Our Tanks were 
ready for the adventure, and they were placed under the 
French command. They made their way behind the 
French lines, took cover until the moment of attack, and 
then advanced with the blue coats, who were mightily 
amused by these comrades in arms, marvelling at their 
method of manoeuvre, and full of enthusiasm for the gal- 
lantry of their crews. The German Hues were stormed, 
and the Tanks and French infantry penetrated the enemy 
positions and assaulted the German machine-gun posts, 
strong points, and wired defences, cutting off groups of 
men, who surrendered quickly, and overwhelming those 
who held out in defence. As modern Juggernauts, they 
crushed the bodies of men who tried to bar their way, and 
when some of them got hit by gun-fire and were brought to 
a standstill, the crews opened, their steel doors, dragged out 
their machine-guns, and fought from the tops of the Tanks, 
using them as strong points. Some of them were hit by 
guns across the River Avre, but the casualties of the Tank 
pilots and crews were light, and their co-operation stirred 
the French infantry to the highest enthusiasm. When they 
came back out of the battle they were hung around with 
French flags like chariots of victory. This admiration was 
mutual, for our men are loud in praise of the French troops 



48 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

who fought with them, and say that they have never seen 
better things than the quickness, skill, and courage of at- 
tack shown by their comrades in blue. Among the pris- 
oners brought home between Mailly, Raineval, and Sauvil- 
lers were four battalion commanders, who were both 
startled and depressed by this sudden turn of fortune's 
wheel. 



PART VI 
THE BRITISH VICTORIES 



A General Advance 

The swift and far-reaching success of Marshal Foch's 
counter-offensive across the Marne led quickly to the pos- 
sibility of a British advance north and south of Amiens. 
The problem of Prince Rupprecht of Bavaria had been 
solved for him. The plight of the German Crown Prince, 
who had lost enormous numbers of men and guns, caused 
Liidendorff to call for many of the twenty-nine divisions 
who had been in Rupprecht's reserve, waiting to assault 
us, and one by one they were hurried down to that seeth- 
ing cauldron between the Aisne and the Marne. Against 
our front there were no longer such great odds in man- 
power, and in the battles that opened on August 8 the en- 
emy was hard pressed to support and relieve fighting troops. 
As I have written in my Preface, the Australians had the 
honour and the peril of initiating the attack after their 
skilful operations round Amiens which had not been with- 
out inevitable losses, and on Thursday, August 8, a famous 
day in history, they began their advance along the valley 
of the Somme. South of them was the Canadian corps 
north of the long road from Amiens to Roye. Being ab- 
sent on sick leave I missed, by bad luck, the opening of this 
new phase in the war, when at last after many years of 
battle behind fixed positions, and then a retreat which was 
full of tragic peril, our armies went forward in an un- 

49 



50 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

broken success which changed the whole aspect of the 
Western Front. On that day in August, moving out of 
the early morning mists, there went many hundreds of 
Tanks in line of battle, followed by columns of Australian 
and Canadian infantry, battalion after battalion, with their 
supporting troops marching in depth, and an immense traf- 
fic of guns and gun-limbers, transport wagons and lorry 
columns, while masses of cavalry, a great pageant of horse- 
men, gathered in woods and sunken roads to ride out 
through the German lines when they should be broken by 
the Tanks. It was, as I have been told by officers who 
were there that day, the most astonishing drama of open 
warfare ever seen as yet on the Western Front, almost un- 
believable to those who had known the years of trench 
warfare, when the mere thought of seeing large bodies of 
cavalry in action and men advancing in the open mile after 
mile, and horse artillery pursuing the enemy at the gallop, 
would have been checked by dread of insane visions. 

The Australians did not have an easy time in breaking 
the enemy's defences on the Somme, and there was hard 
fighting for the village of Morlancourt, and later for 
Chipilly and Clery. But on the first day of fighting over 
15,000 prisoners were gathered in, and on the south of the 
Somme, not many days later, the Australians swept for- 
ward through the ruins of Proyart, Framerville, Posieres, 
and Lihons, where they established their line on Saturaay 
morning. 

The Canadians went forward with rapid strides despite 
the difficulty presented by the Avre, which crossed diag- 
onally the front of their right division, smashing through 
the German defences held by deadly machine-gun fire, and 
took Warvillers, Beaufort, Bouchoir, and Le Quesnoy, 
along the highway from Amiens to Roye. Further south 
the French in a brilliant attack had captured Moreuil, and 
then advanced so rapidly that the enemy was forced to 
evacuate Montdidier, where his narrow salient had become 
untenable. Our cavalry co-operated with the infantry, 



THE BRITISH VICTORIES 51 

riding out on patrols, rounding up prisoners and guns, and 
taking frightful risks against hidden machine-gun nests, 
as when they charged Z Wood, near Roye, where they 
came up against barbed-wire entanglements, and rode un- 
der a dreadful sweep of fire. One squadron captured a 
train full of soldiers returning from leave to the number 
of three or four hundred, after outflanking the village of 
Harbonnieres a.nd capturing Vauvillers. They then ad- 
vanced further east and captured three batteries. There, 
by bad luck, they had to withdraw and leave the batteries 
behind because of machine-gun fire directed by an Austrian 
general, but their brigade brought in iioo prisoners, and 
many Russian ponies. The village of Damery, near Roye, 
was taken by the Canadians, Z Wood fell to the French, 
and Roye itself was entered, the enemy falling back stead- 
ily before the French over a wide tract of country towards 
their old Hindenburg line beyond Nesle and Noyon. The 
Australians continued to force their way along the Somme 
to the outskirts of Peronne, where the enemy held the 
crossings at Biache and Brie, but meanwhile on August 2^ 
the second great advance of British troops began. 

Our whole line moved across the Ancre, and as far north 
as the country about Bucquoy and Puisieux. It was the 
march-back of our troops across the old Somme battlefields 
over which they had retreated in March under overwhelm- 
ing pressure. The crossing of the Ancre by the 17th and 
38th Divisions, English and Welsh, was a daring and 
astounding feat. The enemy was above them on the 
heights of Thiepval and Usna Hill, and his guns fired 
fiercely on the foot-bridges which our men tried to build 
across the foul swamp which runs through the most fright- 
ful track of old strife and wreckage and corruption in all 
our scenery of war from the ruins of Albert to the valley 
of death by Miraumont. One battalion of Welshmen and 
a force of the 17th Division waded at night through the 
cold water, up to their necks in it, and after assembling on 
the other side in darkness attacked in advance of their bar- 



52 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

rage-fire upon the German positions high above them on 
chalky slopes like steep crags. They turned the German 
positions and broke the barrier which barred the way then, 
as on July i, 1916, when many of our men died in their 
attempts to storm it, and by bad luck failed. 

The Welsh on the left, the 17th in the centre, and the 
2 1 St Division on the right, starting from this line of the 
Ancre, went forward day after day, in unbroken progress, 
to Gauche Wood and Villers-Guislan, and the edge of our 
old Cambrai salient, more than twenty miles away, fighting 
hard all the time against desperate resistance by German 
rear-guards and many German counter-attacks. The en- 
emy was fighting a rear-guard action, but with strong 
forces, and with the intention of delaying our progress at 
all costs until he could prepare his main defences on the 
Hindenburg line. So East and West Yorks, and Dorsets, 
and Lincolns of the 17th Division fought their way over 
the Pozieres Ridge, through Courcellette and Martinpuich, 
scenes of tragic fighting in the old days of the first Somme 
battles, stormed Flers, which was hard and costly to take, 
and surrounded Le Transloy, where the enemy had an ex- 
traordinary number of machine-guns in the cemetery. The 
Welshmen of the 38th Division were keeping pace, and 
sometimes setting the pace, and on the right the 21st Di- 
vision, the old heroes of Fricourt, and many battles from 
Flanders to the Somme, with their Yorkshires, Leicesters, 
Wiltshires, and other county troops, advanced south of Le 
Transloy towards their old front of March 21 at Vaucel- 
lete Farm. Further north, towards Bapaume, the New 
Zealanders were on the move and never stood still until 
they were through that town and far beyond it. All along 
this northern way there was hard fighting, and our Eng- 
lish divisions fought many small battles on each side of the 
New Zealanders. There was the 42nd Division of ours 
— all Lancashire battalions — on the right of the New 
Zealanders, who had some ugly hours at Beauregard Dove- 
cot, and later near Grevillers and Biefvillers, through which 



THE BRITISH VICTORIES 53 

the New Zealanders stormed their way, and at Riencourt, 
south of Bapaume. On the left was our old 5th Division 
with their glorious Devons, and Cornwall Light Infantry 
and South Country fellows with Scottish Borderers, and 
they helped bravely in the capture of Achiet-le-Grand — a 
machine-gun fortress then — and worked round Tries and 
Beugnatre, and went on again to the Bapaume-Cambrai 
road. The 37th Division with Bed fords and Warwicks, 
East Lanes, West Lanes, and the York and Lanes, took 
Bucquoy and Ablainzeville, and were swept with machine- 
gun fire outside the sugar factory at Bihucourt, and did 
not have an easy way past Behagnies and Sapignies, where 
the Germans fought like wolves among the ruins. But 
never for more than a night or a morning did the Germans 
hold back that human tide of ours which moved against 
them and broke down all their barriers and engulfed large 
numbers of their men. 



II 

Outside Arras 

August 28 
Our troops have again advanced since yesterday morn- 
ing on many parts of the Front from country north of the 
Scarpe beyond Arras to the ruined villages north and south 
of Bapaume, and right across the old battlefields of the 
Somme to those woods of evil but heroic memory, Trones 
and Bernafay, and High Wood and Vaux, in the bend of 
the Somme, for which thousands of our men fought and 
died in the early years of this war. Thank God, thousands 
of our men are not dying now to take them again, but are 
going forward with amazing ease in wide sweeping move- 
ments which the enemy in most places is resisting only 
feebly, and it is only here and there that there has been 
close and bitter fighting. By bad luck and ill-health I have 



64 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

been away from this front for a few weeks, and now that I 
have come back again it is startling to find what a change 
has taken place in so short a time. 

When I left, all that one could say in good hope was that 
the enormous menace against us had been rebuffed, and 
that Marshal Foch's counter-stroke across the Marne and 
between Rheims and Soissons with French, British, and 
American troops had destroyed the ambition and power of 
the Crown Prince's army. It was then Prince Rupprecht's 
army that was the chief threat against us, and it was an 
army of perhaps 250,000 fresh troops, apart from those 
in line waiting to be hurled against us, if the German 
Crown Prince could do without them. We knew then that 
some of Rupprecht's divisions had been sent down hur- 
riedly to his relief, but the question still remained whether 
the armies holding our part of the battle-front would be 
still strong enough to attack us or strong enough to check 
any attempt of ours to advance against them. 

Since then the tide has turned in an astonishing way. 
It is now the enemy who is on the defensive, dreading the 
hammer-blows that fall upon him day after day, and the 
initiative of attack is so completely in our hands that we 
are able to strike him at many different places. Since 
August 8 we must have taken nearly 50,000 prisoners and 
nearly 500 guns, and the tale is not yet told, because our men 
are going on taking new strides, new batches of Germans, 
more batteries. The change has been greater in the minds 
of men than in the taking of territory. On our side our 
army seems to be buoyed up with enormous hope of get- 
ting on with this business quickly. They are fighting for 
quick victory and quick peace, so that they may get back 
to normal life and wipe this thing clean from the map of 
Europe, and restore the world to sane purposes. That is, 
I am sure, their hope, and for almost the first time in very 
truth they see something of the reality in sight. 

But the change is also in the enemy's mind. Those Ger- 
man soldiers and their officers are changed men since March 



THE BRITISH VICTORIES 55 

21, when they launched their offensive. They no longer 
have even a dim hope of victory on this Western Front. 
All they hope for now is to defend themselves long enough 
to gain peace by negotiation. Many of the men go even 
further than this, and admit that they do not care how 
peace comes so long as there is peace. They are sullen 
with their own officers, and some of those whom I saw 
to-day were more than sullen. They were those captured 
to-day and yesterday by the Canadians in the country 
round Monchy, beyond Arras, nearly 2CX)0 of them, and 
w'hen those who had been first taken saw batches of their 
comrades coming down, they cheered and jeered and 
laughed, with shouts of ''Bravo," as though they had gained 
the best of luck. They became excited when some of their 
officers were brought in, a battalion commander among 
them, with his adjutant, and the survivors of two battalion 
staffs, and they lounged up to the barbed wire of the en- 
closure which separated them with cigarettes hanging from 
their hps and no sign of discipline or deference. One of 
the officers was angry, and commanded the men to stand 
to attention when he spoke to them, but they shook their 
heads and grinned, as much as to say, "All that is finished. 
We have suffered too long under your tyranny. We are 
equal in captivity." And that was their meaning, judg- 
ing from some of their speech to our officers and men. 
They complain that they have been deluded by hopes of vic- 
tory, and have been sacrificed too often in the service of 
a brutal command. 

Even the officers are changed in their demeanour, and 
speak gravely of their reverses, and do not seek to mini- 
mize them. Only one officer maintained the same trucu- 
lent pride of his caste with the Canadian officers to-day. 
He refused to admit that anything serious had happened 
to the German army. Even when he was told how many 
prisoners had been taken lately, he said, "That is nothing. 
It is all according to plan." "Yes," said the Canadian of- 
ficer, "but our plan, not yours." And at those words he 



56 . THE WAY TO VICTORY 

was abashed. I saw a batch of these prisoners coming 
down under escort of some Canadian mounted men this 
morning. They were marching briskly, staring about 
them as they passed, and smiHng at our soldiers who were 
marching in the opposite direction to the battle-front. 
Many of them looked tired and pale, and some of them 
limped, and a few were lightly wounded, but there was on 
all their faces the look of men reHeved from fear and glad 
to be beyond its menace. The men marching past them 
were Highlanders of the 51st Division going up to sup- 
port their comrades fighting on the north of the Scarpe. 
They came winding through a little wood of shelled trees, 
and the colour of their kilts twinkled through the trees, 
and their brown faces were flushed with the heat of the 
march, and they had the look of boys who are sure of vic- 
tory, so different from those poor pasty-faced fellows in 
grey who had just gone by as prisoners. 

Well, it was queer to be back on the old familiar ground 
again, to be passing through Arras to get news of an- 
other battle at Monchy — through the old grey streets of 
Arras, with its ruined churches and broken houses, which 
hold a thousand memories of this war for us, because it 
was in April of last year that other English and Scottish 
troops passed that way towards Monchy and Guemappe 
and Pelves, which they attacked again yesterday and to- 
day. The Canadians were on the Vimy Ridge then. Yes- 
terday some of them were up by Neuville-Vitasse and Wan- 
court, which London troops captured in the old days; and 
London troops are fighting near those places this time. The 
arrival of the Canadians was an immense surprise to the 
Germans. The last heard of them was outside Roye, after 
their glorious advance on the left of the French, and the 
last thing in the world which the enemy expected was to 
find them right in the north beyond Arras. That was a 
brilliant piece of secret manoeuvre. 

Before the Germans had any inkling of their presence 
the Canadians were advancing upon them yesterday morn- 



THE BRITISH VICTORIES 57 

ing with a sweep of shell-fire in front of them. Without 
encountering much resistance, they swung round by Gue- 
mappe and Wancourt over the high ground on each side 
of the Cojeul. The Germans of the 214th Division, made 
up of men from the Rhineland, Stettin, and Lower 
Schleswig, and Hessians, were aghast at this sudden as- 
sault, and either retired or gave themselves up in the early 
stages of the Canadian advance. Their resistance stif- 
fened on the crest of Monchy Hill, and there was fierce 
fighting all night in the trench on the top of the Wancourt 
spur. But the Canadians were determined to get this 
place, and, with great individual gallantry and good lead- 
ership and a most dogged spirit, they worked around the 
machine-guns which were holding them off, and rushed 
them in the darkness. By morning they held the spur, 
and this body of Canadians, who had taken over 820 pris- 
oners yesterday, this morning added another 150, with 
many machine-guns, most of whom were caught in the 
valley below the ridge. All told, the Canadians and the 
Scots attacking with them, had taken about 1800 prison- 
ers. The highest point, most desired by the Canadians, 
was the old Wancourt Tower on the tip of the crest, and 
this they gained in time for a new departure this morn- 
ing, having to change their direction three times owing to 
the lie of the ground, and facing south instead of east 
after the beginning of the battle, which is always a diffi- 
cult operation. A little farther north other Canadian 
troops who had crossed Orange Hill, that hill which domi- 
nates many miles of country, so that the loss of it a few 
months ago was serious to us, advanced again this morn- 
ing to woods on equally high ground beyond, for which 
our men strove many times in vain in May of last year. 
Those are the Bois-du-Sart and the Bois-de-Vert, which 
I used to see like green eyes staring down upon our lines 
round Wancourt and Henin, and from which always there 
used to come wicked machine-gun fire when any of our 
troops moved in the open valley below. The Canadians ap- 



68 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

parently hold the Bois-du-Sart, and it seems likely that 
the other wood is in their hands, though I am not certain 
of this. In any case, they have moved steadily forward 
in that direction, and also below, across the Sensee Valley, 
towards the Drocourt-Oueant line, which is the northern 
switch of the main Hindenburg line between Wancourt and 
Heninel. 

I was with the Canadians this morning when the new 
advance had just started, and over the wires came the good 
news that the Germans were falling back down their 
trenches towards Cherisy, and that their barrage of gun- 
fire was thin. The 35th German Division of West Prus- 
sians had relieved the 214th Division, and took part in the 
counter-attacks yesterday, but is already discouraged and 
giving ground. The 214th is practically destroyed as a 
fighting power. Prisoners have been taken from every 
company of every battalion, including, as I have said, a 
battalion commander and adjutant, and the survivors of 
two battalion staffs. The success of our infantry was 
most remarkable because in this battle very few Tanks 
have been used, and machine-gun nests had to be taken in 
many cases without their help. To the north of the Bois- 
du-Sart is one of the points of trouble because it is full of 
machine-guns, from which there is a wicked sweep of 
fire. 

They were Scottish troops of the 51st Division, the he- 
roes of so many battles, who, advancing on the north of 
the Canadians, stormed Roeux and its old chemical works, 
long laid into ruin, where in the first battles of Arras there 
was most bloody fighting week after week, in which Scot- 
tish troops also were engaged. In Roeux they took a num- 
ber of prisoners who were dejected men. One of their 
officers confessed that he no longer took any interest in 
the war. "God is directing it," he said, ''and will declare 
the issue." All the men long for peace by agreement. 
South of the Canadians Lowland Scots of the 52nd, and 
London troops of the 56th Division, yesterday worked 



THE BRITISH VICTORIES 59 

round Henin Hill, and fought forward towards Croisilles, 
which the enemy defends desperately. There was not 
much opposition on Henin Hill, and the Scots advanced 
in a leisurely way, so that our observers were filled with 
admiration for the cool courage of the men, who kept driv- 
ing** the enemy in front of them. Then they crossed the 
old end of the Hindenburg line this side of the Drocourt- 
Queant switch, which is now the northern part of that line, 
and have been making further progress to-day. 

The Londoners of the 56th Division fought with the ut- 
most gallantry on the western edge of Croisilles, where 
for a time they were checked by the blast of machine-gun 
fire from the crest. Further south other troops, including 
Yorkshire battahons of the 62nd Division, are extending 
our gains north of Bapaume, by Beugnatre, and the sugar 
factory at Vaulx-Vraucourt, in the direction of Bullecourt. 
In that region the enemy is fighting hard, with strong coun- 
ter-attacks, in which some of our men have had heavy 
fire to face, though general success has been assured. New 
Zealanders are forcing their way round the northern out- 
skirts of Bapaume. Down south the Australians and other 
troops are steadily making their way across the Somme bat- 
tlefields, through the old woods of ill-fame, like Bernafay 
and Trones and Maricourt, and our line is now nearly 
straight up from near Vaux on the Somme, to near Longue- 
val and the southern outskirts of Bapaume. 

The Germans can make no stand in most of these places, 
and they know it. Personally, I believe they are only fight- 
ing for time — hard rear-guard actions to gain a few days 
and exact the price before they fall back on their old line 
of resistance on the other side of Peronne. For them this 
retreat, which has completely wiped out their monstrous 
efforts which followed March 21, is a deadly blow to their 
mihtary and national pride, and a proof that they will 
never gain a victory on the Western Front. They cannot 
hide this from the world nor from their own people. But 
do not let all this good success of ours lead us to a false 



60 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

optimism and hopes beyond the touch of reality. Unless 
the spirit of the German army breaks more utterly than 
it has done, we yet may find, in spite of what I have writ- 
ten about the prisoners to-day, that they still have strength 
for a long and stubborn defence, and there must be many 
battles yet, more efforts by our men, long and stubborn 
patience on our part before the German High Command 
will utter the word ''surrender" or ''defeat." Yet, while 
we face that frankly, nothing can be more wonderful or 
glorious than the victories which have been won by the 
valour of our men during recent days, which have broken 
the evil purpose of the German command, and given us a 
wide margin of safety from dangers which touched us 
very close. 

August 29 
When I went up into the battle area this morning south- 
east of Arras, the enemy was shelling Monchy and the high 
ground beyond, and his long-range crumps burst and left 
black trails of smoke in the wet air, like those from a fac- 
tory chimney. Beyond, along the Wancourt Ridge, it 
seemed very quiet, and when I travelled southwards past 
the line of Mercatel and Neuville-Vitasse, which are now 
in our hands again, after brief possession by the enemy, 
no single shell came over the Croisilles Ridge, which over- 
looks the village of Croisilles, which was entered by Lon- 
don troops of the 56th Division yesterday, and over to 
BuUecourt, upon which they advanced to-day. 

I was with officers of these troops when the attack was 
renewed at half -past twelve this morning. We were stand- 
ing amidst the wreckage of old trenches and huts left be- 
hind in the wake of all this fighting, when a hurricane bom- 
bardment opened from all our guns. Our batteries were 
scattered about over a wide area, which includes the newly 
captured villages of Boiry-Becquerelle and Boyelles, and 
many heaps of ruin, which were once hamlets and farm- 
steads and cottages, all smashed to bits, and groups of 



THE BRITISH VICTORIES 61 

Nissen huts broken to matchwood, and twisted iron and 
railway lines flung wildly over the fields, and the inde- 
scribable litter of this fighting zone. It had been raining 
hard, and the sky was heavy with storm-clouds, beneath 
which along the crests of high ground the sun shone with 
a white, gleaming light. It sparkled on the rain-washed 
ruins, with their white chalk, and upon the waterproof 
capes of men marching along the tracks behind the lines, 
and upon field-batteries moving forward with their trans- 
port. 

Suddenly at this hour of half-past twelve a quietude 
which had only been broken by the shocks of single long- 
range guns firing over the ridge to Bullecourt, was changed 
into a tumult of noise as all our batteries began a terrific 
drumfire. For several miles the wreckage of the battle- 
fields was alive with little points of light flashing through 
the wet mist, running along the ridges like sparks setting 
the rank grass alight. It was an intense bombardment 
preceding a new attack by Londoners and the Guards, with 
Lowlanders of the 52nd Division on their right, beyond 
Croisilles and Fontaine-les-Croisilles towards Bullecourt 
and the Drocourt-Queant line. Oflicers directing these op- 
erations told me that Croisilles had been well in their hands 
since yesterday, and that, with the help of the Scots to the 
north of them, they hoped to get a good deal farther to- 
day now that Croisilles was no longer a furnace of machine- 
gun fire. One of the officers at that moment was called 
to the telephone in touch with his forward observers, and 
after listening to the message, he turned and said, **It 
seems to have started all right. Our observers have seen 
Germans running out of Bullecourt. We ought to get the 
place in a couple of hours." 

These troops of the 56th (London) Division have done 
most gallantly since they came into this battle on August 
23. The London Scottish, 4th Londons, and Kensingtons 
had eight hours' march over rough ground, and went 
straight into the attack against Boyelles and Boiry- 



62 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

Becquerelle, which they captured easily with 700 prisoners. 
Another battahon commander went out afterwards to as- 
certain the enemy's position, which is never very certain, 
and escaped narrowly after being machine-gunned at short 
range from one bit of trench to another. These lads were 
very tired after three nights without sleep, and with little 
water, and they had hard fighting on the way to Croisilles, 
and a worse time afterwards outside the village, where 
they found themselves under an incessant sweep of ma- 
chine-gun bullets from the village, which was crammed with 
German machine-gunners. They tried to rush the place 
several times, but were checked by that infernal fire. Other 
bodies of them, including the ist Londons, Middlesex, and 
8th Londoners, got up towards the Hindenburg line, helped 
by Londoners on their left, who came round to the north 
of Croisilles and through the Hindenburg line yesterday, 
threatening to encircle the village. Germans in Croisilles 
saw this menace, and their machine-gun teams filtered out of 
it under our gun-fire, which killed many of them before 
they could escape. Yesterday one of our officers mounted 
his horse and rode very calmly and quietly into that strong- 
hold and found it deserted, so that it was then occupied 
by our men. 

Two platoons of these Londoners had a queer and haz- 
ardous adventure on the way up at a place called Fooley 
Trench. They found they had plunged into a hornets' 
nest, with machine-guns on each side of them, and a spe- 
cial smoke barrage had to be put up for them, so that they 
could get back behind its veil. "They were as good as the 
Guards,** said some of the Guards themselves on the morn- 
ing of the recent attack, and that is praise worth having 
from men who have a fine pride in themselves. Their of- 
ficers cannot say too much in admiration of these boys, 
who, after long and hard fighting in earlier battles, have 
gone forward again with such high spirit and patient cour- 
age and grim sticking power. 

Their capture of Croisilles is of big importance to our 



THE BRITISH VICTORIES 63 

general scheme of things, opening the way to the further 
advance on Bullecourt. It forces the enemy back on to 
the Drocourt-Oueant Hne, which he will hold for a time 
if he can with a kind of outer bastion of trenches swing- 
ing in a loop, which leaves Bullecourt on our side of it. 
The situation yesterday remained in our favour, in spite 
of the desperate efforts of the enemy to beat us back and 
retake some of his lost ground, like Monchy. 

Highlanders of the 51st Division north of the Scarpe 
had held on to Roeux, with its famous and horrible ruin 
of chemical works just beyond them, and south of the 
river we were on the Wancourt Ridge, well east of Monchy 
Hill, and 300 yards or so west of the high wood called 
Bois-de-Sart. The Canadians the day before yesterday 
had made a general advance of 6000 yards, with the cap- 
ture of 2000 prisoners and about 50 guns. All this had 
frightened the enemy command, and they made frantic ef- 
forts to stiffen the resisting power of their lines. Owing 
to the rapidity of our advance and their heavy losses, they 
had great difficulty in reinforcing their defence. They had 
to goad up divisions and bits of divisions already cut to 
pieces in the recent fighting, and odd battalions and com- 
panies are mixed together in a chaotic way and told to go 
forward and fight. The German bandsmen and transport 
drivers were given rifles and sent into the front lines, with 
orders to stand or die. In an area of three miles there 
were sixteen battalions made up from five shattered divi- 
sions, and hopelessly mixed round about Montauban, 

Farther north, by Mory and Cherisy, the 36th German 
Division and the 23rd, both divisions of storm troops, 
have been so smashed that another division, which had been 
already in bloody fighting so that many companies were 
down to twenty-five men instead of 120, had to be sent up 
in their support. Before their counter-attack on the 
Guards at Mory on August 22 the Seventeenth German 
Army issued a boasting order which said : "We have com- 
pletely defeated four and a half British divisions, and, 



64 THE WAY TO VICTORY . 

what is more, they know it." Four of their divisions were 
ordered forward to counter-attack and retake Moyenne- 
ville and Ablainzeville, but only a few men got to the rail- 
way, and there were many non-starters, as our men say. 
Those who did attempt to advance were caught by our 
artillery and slaughtered. One battalion near St.-Leger 
found that the regiments on the right and left of them had 
"mizzled" off, and it was stranded. Our troops saw the 
situation of these men and surrounded them so that they 
were forced to surrender in a mass to the number of 215. 
A company commander of the 73rd Fusiliers, whose nose 
seems to have been broken by his own men, was furious 
at having been sent into the firing-line after the dreadful 
slaughter of his regiment, and cursed his command in 
strong language. Prisoners also complained of their ar- 
tillery firing as much as 600 yards short and so killing their 
own men. 

Two new German divisions were brought up against the 
Canadians yesterday, and the 35th, which had been man- 
ning the Drocourt-Queant line, was ordered to go forward 
at seven o'clock last night and retake Monchy, that high 
old hill which I saw this morning under fire, but still se- 
curely in our hands. Again there were many non-start- 
ers. By the results of this attempted attack one can pic- 
ture truly enough the sullen revolt of dispirited men. 
Some units came forward under the sweep of our gun-fire, 
enormously stronger than theirs in this part of the line, 
and fell under it on those slopes of death. A few resolute 
bodies of men made as much as 400 yards of ground, and 
there stayed, being wiped out man by man. Once again 
the 35th German Division was ordered to advance on 
Monchy, but after a disorganized effort of the bravest men 
they drifted back. 

For a time at any rate the German infantry, apart from 
the machine-gunners who were still most gallant and reso- 
lute, have lost their spirit, and have had enough of this 
rear-guard fighting and counter-attacking in weak strength. 



THE BRITISH VICTORIES 65 

A rot has begun among them which will lead to greater dis- 
asters for the German army unless they can be rallied and 
refreshed. Our men will not give them any holiday or 
help them with a rest-cure. Between the Oise and the sea 
the German Command has not many divisions fit to fight, 
apart from those dreadfully hammered and tried beyond 
the breaking point of human courage. They must be at 
their wits' end, thinking hard in vain what they may do 
next. We ourselves were in no good state after the weeks 
following March 21. As I described at the time, our men 
had to fight again and again until terribly tired and weak, 
but reserves came to us in time, and are here with us now. 

But the Germans have at the moment no such reserves, 
and they know that the American Army is waiting for 
them, large legions of fresh fighting men ready to strike 
at the right moment. For Hindenburg and Liidendorff 
these are not good days. English, Scottish, and Canadian 
troops have made black marks for them yesterday and to- 
day. At ten o'clock yesterday morning the Canadians at- 
tacked, and, after hard fighting, took Cherisy, and then in 
the afternoon went forward again in a big sweep and cap- 
tured Vis-en-Artois. The Germans blew up the bridge 
across the Cojeul river, but it did not stop the Canadians. 
Vis-en-Artois, like Croisilles, was stiff with machine-guns, 
and the fields were swept with bullets from the cemetery 
trench, and another outside the village. But with rifle and 
bayonet and machine-gun, the Canadian storming parties 
broke this defence, divided the village between two sepa- 
rate units of their force, and sent out patrols to Remy- 
Haucourt and Boiry-Notre-Dame, which are far out in the 
open country, beyond any point we have reached in this 
region during the whole war. 

Meanwhile, on the north of the Scarpe our Scottish 
troops of the 51st Division have gone forward from Roeux 
and captured Pelves, and our whole line from the north of 
the Scarpe to the country below Croisilles is moving for- 



66 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

ward to-day, driving the enemy in front of it. Scottish 
troops took Fontaine-les-Croisilles, and with the English 
troops are going well ahead. Undoubtedly this move will 
be checked for a time in front of the Drocourt-Queant 
line, which is very strong, and will be defended in strength 
by every German regiment which can be brought up. This 
advance of ours gives a sense and sight of enormous move- 
ment behind our lines, and there is not a man who is not 
stirred by the emotion of it, feeling that we are indeed 
''getting on with the war." It is like a vast tide of life, 
moving very slowly but steadily. Up the roads our trans- 
port goes with ammunition and food and water for the 
fighting-lines, miles and miles of moving columns, with 
''Ole Bill'* and his mates smoking their fags above the 
horses, with their dogs on the baggage behind, and side 
glances of scorn at odd crumps that kick up the earth in 
the fields about them. Engineers are working in an heroic 
way, laying new lines, mending old ones torn up by the 
enemy in his retreat, building up bridges that have been 
wrecked by explosive charges or our fire. 

At Pozieres and elsewhere we have regained many of 
our old ammunition dumps, with valuable stores, which 
will come into use again. Everywhere over our old 
ground, now recaptured, there are clumps of British shells, 
and the earth is littered with them, lying in piles and gleam- 
ing in the rain and sun. So fast have the engineers v/orked 
that trains are now puffing up into places taken only a few 
days ago, and this morning I saw how all our pioneers and 
railwaymen and labour battalions, like an enormous army 
of ants, were working on these old battlefields to mate a 
little order out of chaos and get on with the war, like the 
riflemen who are walking in front of them. Life is re- 
sumed in the fields and villages, which for some months 
have been places of great death. 

Things are going well, but, good or ill, the British sol- 
dier remains the same as I saw him to-day in those places 



THE BRITISH VICTORIES 67 

— imperturbable, industrious, glad to get any comfort man 
may find amidst ruin, and doing his job, whatever it may 
be, without worry if there is no immediate cause to have 
the ''wind up.'* 

Ill 

Back to Bapaume 

August 30 
Bapaume has been taken to-day, and from the hills north 
of the Scarpe, beyond Arras, right away down the line 
across the old Somme battlefields, by Ginchy and Guille- 
mont and Morval, where our troops are pressing forward, 
and, farther south still, in the Australian fighting zone, by 
Feuilleres and Belloy, above the Somme, this side of 
Peronne, the enemy is retreating before us, and his men 
are trying to get away behind their rear-guards before 
they are caught or killed. In places German machine-gun- 
ners and rear-guard lines are maintaining fierce resistance, 
in order to gain time for the more orderly retreat of the 
German divisions, and this defence has been strongest on 
the northern half of the Australian front, perhaps to delay 
the capture of Peronne until they may have time to remove 
their enormous stores, and higher up on our First and 
Third Army fronts, from Bapaume and Bullecourt to north 
of the Arras-Cambrai road. 

But the German army is stealing away in the darkness 
and daylight from all the country west of the Somme, and 
from the battlefields beyond Delville Wood above, and our 
men are trudging after them, kept up by elation of the vic- 
torious advance which is better than wine to them. Be- 
cause many of these men, who are now following up the 
Germans in big strides, are the same men who in March 
last had to fall back over this same ground under over- 
whelming odds, and the change of fortune is balm to their 
spirit, and every yard of the way is a splendid revenge. 



68 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

Because they have the enemy on the run they are eager to 
go on till they can walk no further, and officers and men, 
like many I met to-day, are high-spirited, full of odd jokes 
and laughter, excited a little beyond the reserve and quie- 
tude of our English way, because Fritz is still "hopping 
it,'' as they say, and every hour brings them news of more 
villages recaptured, more woods from which the Germans 
have fled, more ground gained on the right or left. 

So I found the Australians this morning, and in another 
place some Welsh officers of the 58th Division, who had 
been moving forward day after day, until they were miles 
away from where they started, and far out in the wilderness 
of the Somme battlefields. "The old dragon," said one of 
the officers of the Welsh troops, "has his tail sticking up as 
straight as a crowbar, and the Welsh lads have a right to 
be proud of themselves, because since the 23rd, when they 
attacked across the Ancre, they have captured place after 
place, thousands of prisoners, smashed through the enemy 
every time he has tried to stand, and scared him out of his 
wits." With EngHsh troops on their right and left, it was 
the Welsh who waded the Ancre up to their necks, and, 
with our barrage falling behind them, because they had 
gone too far, attacked and took the heights of Usna Hill 
at the bayonet-point, and afterwards helped to storm the 
fortress position of Thiepval, which broke the enemy's main 
line of resistance; and then, with other troops, swept across 
the Pozieres Ridge, and Contalmaison, and La Boiselle, and 
Ovillers, through Mametz Wood and beyond to Bazentin- 
le-Grand. "Mametz Wood, captured by Welsh, 19 16, re- 
captured 1918. Hurrah!" was the wire sent to head- 
quarters when the Welsh gained the wood on August 25. 
This morning they captured Delville Wood, the old "Devil's 
Wood," which made a black chapter of history in 1916; 
and then went on to Ginchy, and away towards Morval, 
with other English troops on their right through Guille- 
mont. We had Delville Wood for a time a day or two ago, 
and then fell back from it the day before yesterday under 



THE BRITISH VICTORIES 69 

fierce shelling; but it was ours this morning, as I saw for 
myself when I went up to it, and then took a field track 
towards Ginchy. 

We turned our heavies on to it in the night, and flung 
8-inch shells along its dead trees, so that the enemy fled 
from it in terror. Three men did not escape, but slept 
stolidly like dead men through all our gun-fire, until wak- 
ened up this morning when the Welshmen went in. I saw 
them coming down the road from Longueval under escort, 
three white-faced fellows, who still looked drugged by sleep, 
but smiled sheepishly as they passed. I have had many 
strange and thrilHng experiences on battlefields of the 
Somme, from the time when our men fought yard by yard 
in 1916, so that every fold of the ground was the arena of 
a new battle, and every clump of shelled trees, every ditch, 
every mound and heap of ruin was the scene of some ter- 
rible episode, until a few days after March 21, when I saw 
our men coming back across Pozieres Ridge with the enemy 
in close pursuit, and German shells falling in the old places 
which for a year had been immune from fire. 

But to-day many of those old emotions were eclipsed by 
the glad sense of being able to go once more up the Albert- 
Bapaume road, past La Boiselle and through Contalmaison 
to the ridge at Longueval and Delville Wood, with the 
wonderful feeling that once again some foul spell had lifted 
from these fields, and that there was room to roam in them 
again — these places that are ours by the heroic valour of 
our men, now that the enemy has been driven back to his 
vanishing line of retreat. 

To us who have followed this war in body and in spirit, 
those upheaved and mangled fields are sacred ground, 
strewn with the graves of our men who fell there. Their 
graves are there still, as I saw to-day, with the white 
crosses that were put up to them still standing above the 
turmoil of earth. The enemy has not touched them, and 
our own shell-fire has not destroyed them, not many of 
them, as far as I could see, and the only difference since the 



70 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

enemy sprawled back here, and stayed a little while, and 
then was flung back again, is that many bodies of grey- 
clad men lie among the shell-craters, and that the roads 
and tracks are littered with dead horses, so that the air is 
pestilential with foul odour, and everywhere among the 
old trenches and the new, with their white upturned chalk 
and litter of barbed wire, are fresh German notice-boards, 
pointing the way to firing-lines and observation posts, and 
giving the direction of tracks — *'Nach Mametz," "Nach 
Longueval," "Nach Ginchy/' They had tried to camou- 
flage some of their tracks by screens made of rushes, and 
they had dug deep shelters under the banks and in old 
trenches, in order to escape from our harassing fire. In 
shell-craters and ditches lie their helmets and gas-masks and 
rifles and equipment, and here and there is the wreckage of 
a field-gun or a limber untouched, but abandoned in their 
flight, and strewn over all the ground are vast numbers of 
unexploded shells. 

This morning, on the Somme battlefields, our batteries 
were in action far forward, having been brought up in the 
night by unresting gunners, and others were getting into 
their positions in places which yesterday were in German 
hands. Gunner officers rode their horses on their way to 
find good emplacements for heavies or field-guns, along 
tracks where it would have been death to ride even this 
morning, and they called out cheery greetings to infantry 
officers who were going up on foot. There was some scat- 
tered but feeble shelling round about Martinpuich and over 
by Morval, but for the most part the German guns were 
silent, trekking away to safety, and it was our artillery that 
made all the noise of battle. The long snouts of 6-inch 
guns tliat had been brought up somehow by the spirit and 
strength of men and horses, tired, but eager to get ahead, 
rose slowly, like monsters yawning, and bellowed out their 
menace to the retreating Germans. Field-guns hammered 
out their shots, and spent their shells almost as fast as am- 
munition could be brought up by the transport columns, 



THE BRITISH VICTORIES 71 

who find it hard to follow so quickly, but never fail. Road- 
menders were already at work, the gallant pioneers who 
make the ways straight, and truly it is surprising how good 
our old roads are, after all the stress of advance and retreat. 

I took my car to-day to the edge of Longueval and 
broke no springs, and could have driven into the German 
lines without any trouble except the inevitable one which 
ends all trouble. The storm-clouds of yesterday had cleared, 
and the sky was blue between snow mountains, and over 
the Somme battlefields there w^as a golden light, which 
glinted on the trunks of the black dead trees in Devil's 
Wood and Mametz Wood, and those thin rows of charred 
masts which were once Trones Wood and Bernafay, where 
many of our men fought and fell two years ago. The open 
battlefield stretched away as far as one's vision, and across 
it our men went trudging, with the Germans creeping away 
before them, or holding a line with machine-gun fire, until 
our men were on them and through them. Our casualties 
still remain light, but here and there men fall, caught by 
those bullets from the German rear-guards, as I saw how 
some of them, walking in single file, had been caught this 
morning down one track. They lay there, with their steel 
hats lying beside them, at intervals of a dozen paces. For 
them there was peace and the journey's end. But by good 
luck most of our wounded are slightly touched, for machine- 
gun bullets are cleaner than chunks of shell, and the am- 
bulances that stole down the winding tracks, with the sun 
deepening the redness of their crosses, were bearing men 
who have "Blighty" wounds, and will soon be well. They 
were smoking cigarettes as they lay and grinned through the 
flaps behind, and there were not many this morning in my 
direction who lay still and unconscious under their blankets. 
For this last lap of the German retreat from Ginchy and 
Guillemont has been a stampede without fighting, and our 
men have followed up like shepherds rounding up their 
sheep. 

Elsewhere the fighting has been severe. Last night there 



72 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

were two counter-attacks against the Canadians in the neigh- 
bourhood of Artillery Hill, between Boiry and Jig-Saw 
Wood. The German Command must have hated the loss 
of Jig-Saw Wood and Sart Wood, which were taken yes- 
terday and the day before. They used the cover of this 
chain of woods on the high ground beyond Monchy and 
above Wancourt in order to bring their men up and feed 
their lines. The loss of them is a grave blow, and they 
tried to goad their men to get back to them yesterday. 
Elements of four divisions were put into counter-attacks, 
including units of the 35th Division, which is utterly 
smashed, but they failed to make any ground and were 
broken under our fire. 

The attack which I described yesterday when Londoners 
took Croisilles was successful all along the line, and the 
troops of the First Army in the north are within 2000 
yards of the Drocourt-Queant line, having broken through 
all the German rear-guards between them and that line of 
resistance, which the enemy hopes to keep at all costs. 
North of the Scarpe the 51st Highland Division has taken 
Greenland Hill, only half of which they held previously, 
and have got well beyond Pelves. It is the same old 51st 
which, since March 21, has fought continuously along many 
parts of the Front, first in the Cambrai salient, with dogged 
rear-guard actions against enormous odds, then up by 
Bethune, when the enemy launched his northern attack, 
then down with the French in the great battles which ended 
with the German retreat on the Marne, and now most 
gloriously in these new victories, through Rceux and Pelves. 
They have received new drafts of gallant young Scots, 
whom I have described marching up to battle with a swing 
of kilts and a warrior look in their eyes, and such a gal- 
lantry of youth that one's heart beats at the sight of them. 
They have gained great honour, not only in our own Army, 
but among the French, and even in the enemy's armies, 
and it will never be forgotten as long as history is written. 
It is the division to which the Germans sent a message, 



THE BRITISH VICTORIES 73 

saying, "Poor old 51st, still sticking it." They are doing 
more than sticking it now. They are driving the enemy 
before them and taking many prisoners, and breaking the 
German spirit. 

For the time being it is badly broken among the infantry, 
though their machine-gunners are still wonderful. An of- 
ficer of the 214th Division says his men would not fight at 
all. He shot ten of them and then, finding things hopeless, 
surrendered himself. When his men heard that Canadians 
were in front of them they were seized with panic, he says, 
and nothing could rally them. Since the 23rd London 
troops have been fighting big battles and making astound- 
ing progress. They are the troops whose actions I de- 
scribed yesterday. It was they who stormed through 
Boyelles and Boiry-Becquerelle, taking 700 prisoners on 
the way to Croisilles, where some of them had to face a 
terrible fire from massed machine-guns. With Scottish 
troops they broke the Hindenburg line across the Sensee 
Valley, and yesterday morning captured Croisilles and 
went half-way to Bullecourt. 

It was a brigade major of Londoners who rode very 
calmly into Croisilles and established himself there in ad- 
vance of his men, and throughout this week the young 
Londoners, who in April last helped to break the German 
assaults at Arras, by the most exalted courage, have again 
been fighting with hearts that have never failed, though 
some of them have suffered from the agony of sleeplessness 
and lain in wet ditches under the sweep of machine-gun 
bullets. Good old London Town, which has produced boys 
like this from the little houses in the suburbs, where quiet 
families who made their sons ''something in the City'* 
never thought that a hero was sitting down to table with 
them, or that their boy would ever lie out in a ditch under 
dreadful fire. There have been great soldiers from Lon- 
don, and many of them, fighting under the dagger and the 
motto of *'Domine dirige nos." 

Our men are marvellous. Highlanders or Cockneys, 



74 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

Welsh or South Country, Lancashire or Yorkshire, during 
the last three weeks they have defeated the storm divisions 
of the German army, wiped out all the enemy's gains since 
March 21, from Amiens to Bapaume, and from Arras to 
the Somme, and have for ever destroyed all Germany's 
hopes of victory. By the strength of their souls they have 
done this, and by the risk of their bodies, and by the last 
limit of human pluck, fighting most of all against fatigue 
and the desire to sleep, more terrible this time than the 
enemy ahead. 

August 31 
The official communique tells the places we have captured 
to-day and last night — so many that a mere list of them is 
long — from north of the Scarpe, where Scotsmen are on 
the outskirts of Plouvain, after their long and gallant 
fighting, to Bullecourt, which Londoners of the 56th and 
West Lancashires of the 57th Division took yesterday, 
going farther east to-day than we have ever been before, 
and away down south beyond Bapaume and towards Pe- 
ronne. In the First Army, Canadians, following up yester- 
day's splendid attack by Londoners, have made a new as- 
sault to-day, and are within a few hundred yards of the 
Drocourt-Queant line, and in the Third Army the New Zea- 
landers and other troops are getting out into open country 
and on high ground to the north and east of Bapaume. 

I picked some roses to-day in Bapaume, red rambler 
roses, which would make a garland for the steel helmet of 
one of the New Zealand boys, to whom honour is most due 
for the capture of the town. Bapaume is not a fragrant 
place for rose-lovers, and when I went into it early this 
morning, when the new battle was in progress outside, 
German shells were smashing among the houses, and there 
was a smell of corruption and high explosives in its ruined 
streets ; but I noticed how against a broken wall these roses 
were in bloom, and marigolds and sweet williams among 
the red brickdust of the ruins, and I picked a bunch out of 



THE BRITISH VICTORIES 75 

sheer maudlin sentiment. For there is a sentiment about 
the recapture of Bapaume for all our soldiers and for me. 
It is the second time that we have entered it with triumph 
after stern fighting up a long, long trail. I shall never 
forget the thrill of that first entry on March 17 last year, 
when I had the luck to go in with the Australians up the 
long road from Albert, past Pozieres and Le Sars and the 
Butte-de-Warlencourt, and those frightful places where 
thousands of our men had fallen on the way. It seemed 
then that Bapaume was the goal of victory, and, in spite 
of the dreadful sights about, one's spirit rose as one passed 
each shell-crater and drew nearer to the town. The repeti- 
tion of an experience is never quite so fresh in sensation 
as the first adventure; yet to get again into Bapaume after 
its loss last March, when the German army came in a roll- 
ing tide back over the Somme battlefields, was a thing worth 
doing. It was another landmark of history, made this 
time by New Zealanders and English battalions of the 5th 
Division fighting beside them. I set out early to get there, 
and saw the dawn rise for this new day of war. The fields 
were pale in the first light of day, and there was a white 
mist over all the war-zone until it was soaked up by the 
rising sun. 

The battlefields were ghastly in this whitish glamour, 
with dew clinging to the strands of the barbed wire and to 
tall thistles growing rankly in the unreaped cornfields all 
cut up with trenches and shell-craters. Supply trains puffed 
through the desolation of those old battlefields, with long 
trails of white smoke, and truck-loads of shells for new 
battles. Kite-balloons rose above the grey earth and wagged 
their white ears aloft. Presently along the roads transport 
came crawling. Labour battalions came out of their camps 
in which smoky fires burned, and marched up to mend the 
roads tramped over by German boots a day or two ago. 
From the aerodromes on the way our fiying men were com- 
ing out for the first flight of the morning, and winged away 
into dappled sky. So the world out here awoke to an- 



76 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

other day of war, though farther up there was no waking, 
for no man had slept. I went up through Miraumont and 
the valley of the Ancre, across which the Welsh went wad- 
ing to capture the heights of Thiepval on August 8. It was 
a valley of abomination, and the dawn lighted up its leprous 
trees, sticking out of deep swamps from which there rose 
wafts of stench where dead things lie rotting. Sand-bag 
emplacements, where men had a little shelter from storms 
of fire, were white against the charred earth and black 
stumps. Everywhere for miles up this valley, to Irles and 
Achiet-le-Petit and Grevillers and other places near Ba- 
paume, where our men have been fighting hard these last 
few days, the ground — all this tumult of tortured earth, all 
these pits dug by shells, all this wild destruction of places 
ruined in the first years of the war, and mangled ever since 
— was strewn with relics of German life and German death 
newly littered here. Their great steel helms, punctured 
by bullets, or torn like paper by shell-splinters, lay in thou- 
sands, with gas-masks and rifles and cartridge belts and 
grey coats. Every mile of the way lay rows of stick- 
bombs never used against our men, and dumps of unex- 
ploded shells hideous in their potentiality. A few dead 
horses lay on each side of the tracks as they had gone 
trudging up with our transport before being hit. Beside 
one horse lay a dead white dog, the pet of a transport 
column. 

For a picture of war an artist like Orpen should have 
been here. But the men hereabouts had other work to do. 
They were getting on with the business, bringing up their 
guns across wild wastes of cratered ground, filling up pits in 
the roads for transport to pass, tearing up broken rails 
that new ones might be laid, riding and marching forward 
to support their comrades in another day of fighting. They 
were mostly New Zealanders on this way, and although 
bad stufif was flying about — the enemy was crumping Gre- 
villers and Achiet-le-Petit, and scattering high velocities 
about in a vicious random way — many of these lads did 



THE BRITISH VICTORIES 77 

not trouble to wear their steel helmets, but kept to their 
slouch hats with the dandy red band. I poked my head 
into a tent to get some direction, and found a New Zea- 
land officer just waking up from a too brief sleep. **How 
are things going?" I asked, and he said, *'Oh, fine! Our 
boys have done grandly, and are still going ahead." He 
sat up to tell me some of their adventures; how they had 
fought machine-gun nests, how the Germans had counter- 
attacked a day or two ago, and got very near to their field- 
batteries, which were far forward. **What do you think?" 
he said. 'Those gunners of ours fought at point-blank 
range until the Germans were nearly up to their muzzles, 
and took seven prisoners on their own, which is not in the 
artillery contract. They are deveilish amused with them- 
selves, and have reason to be." 

So I went on to Bapaume with quickened pulse, over 
trenches taken only yesterday, and still bristling with parts 
of German machine-guns, which were densely emplaced 
along the lines. New Zealanders were organizing their 
own defences in the old German trenches, oiling their 
rifles. They pointed out the best way into Bapaume, 
through belts of wire, and I went on across the railway, 
which I crossed first in March of 19 17, on another day of 
victory. Bapaume had changed but little since I last saw 
it, before the German avalanche a few months ago. Since 
then our guns have pounded it, and our flying men have 
gone over it at night dropping down tons of explosives, 
and now this morning the enemy was shelling it again, but 
what difference can there be in a place already ruined, a 
scrap-heap of broken houses, except more holes in walls, 
broken roofs rebroken, brickwork smashed into smaller 
dust? I prowled about the streets of Bapaume, through 
gaping walls of houses, over piled wreckage, and found it 
the same old Bapaume as when I had left it, except that 
some of our huts and an officers' clubhouse and some 
Y.M.C.A. tents and shelters have been blown to bits, like 
everything else. This was the chief difference, except 



78 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

again for many sign-boards showing the recent occupation 
of the enemy. One notice caught my eye, and I saw 
the same message of warning in Grevillers and Achiet, and 
other places near Bapaume, showing how effective had been 
the work of our airmen in terror to the German soldiers. 
It said: "Weg von der Strasse! Hier findet euch feind- 
liche Flieger" ("Keep off the streets. Here you will find 
hostile airmen"). These notices were even in open coun- 
try, down the battlefield tracks, telling how our airmen had 
swooped over them all with their constant menace. 

ProwHng about those sinister streets of Bapaume I met 
a fellow in a steel hat who had a valuable box of matches, 
which was good for a cigarette, and in friendly conversa- 
tion he told me that before he became a rifleman of the 
New Zealanders he was the editor of a newspaper in his 
country, and a literary man. We exchanged views on the 
war and life and shell-fire amidst the ruins, and he told 
me how some days ago, when he was outside Puisieux with 
his platoon, they were badly troubled by a German machine- 
gun in front of them. The editor was one of six who went 
out to get rid of this trouble, if they had the luck, and they 
not only brought in the machine-gun, but twenty-six prison- 
ers as well, being the first batch from Puisieux. It was 
another little experience for a man who was more ready 
with a fountain-pen than a rifle before the world went to 
war. In the streets of Bapaume I picked up a book dropped 
in a hurry by some poor devil who will never read it now. 
It is entitled "Der Quelle der Kraft, der Strom des 
Friedens, das Meer der Gnade" — "The Source of Power, 
the Flood of Peace, the Sea of Grace" — and I think when I 
have time I shall read it to find out another angle of German 
philosophy with regard to the war. It ought to make good 
reading, though not perhaps as the author intended. 

At half -past eight this morning another action began 
outside Bapaume, and for half an hour or more our drum- 
fire was very fierce and heavy. I was amazed to find our 
uns so far forward, heavy guns as well as field-guns, but 



ori 



THE BRITISH VICTORIES 79 

all through the recent fighting the New Zealand gunners 
have been like greyhounds on the scent, and have followed 
their infantry with amazing speed and skill. The heavies 
were firing in a wide arc round Bapaume, and their shells 
came through the air with a ripping sound that almost lifted 
my hair through my steel helmet. Shell after shell of 
large calibre screamed overhead, and some of them had a 
high, gobbling noise as they spun at lightning speed, and 
the bellowing of the guns seemed to shake these old battle- 
fields and stir their troubled earth. The field-batteries 
within short range of the enemy were knock-knocking like 
postmen down London streets with double rat-tats, as 
children might dream of them at night. The New Zea- 
landers and English troops of the 5th Division were at- 
tacking Fremicourt and the high ridge south-east of Ba- 
paume overlooking Beugny, while Riencourt was being 
approached by Lancashire troops of the 42nd Division; 
and farther south our men were working towards Beaulen- 
court. Success in these attacks would give us the strongest 
defensive lines round Bapaume, and put the enemy into a 
perilous position. The New Zealanders have never 
been still since I went among them one month ago in 
Hebuterne and Rossignol Wood, when even then they were 
harrying the enemy out of his lines. Since then, after 
August 8 they have advanced twenty-one kilometres, and 
always, as one of their officers told me to-day, have been 
the leading hounds in the pack on the way to Bapaume. 
At the beginning of our advance they attacked Puisieux, 
and joined up on the right with English troops in the valley 
of Ancre, and with the Lancashires of the 42nd Division 
helped to take Beauregard dovecot, an important spot which 
the enemy defended desperately, so that there was hard 
fighting there. Three forward observing officers of the 
New Zealanders, very gallant fellows, took twenty-three 
prisoners unaided, and about 300 German birds were hauled 
out of the dovecot by their men. They then joined with 
our troops in the big attack on Bucquoy, Irles, and Achiet- 



80 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

le-Grand, and afterwards captured Loupart Wood, which 
I saw this morning, as many times in old days, with its 
thin fringe of branchless trees staring away for miles over 
the Somme battlefields on the left side of the Albert-Ba- 
paume road. Grevillers fell to them, Grevillers with its 
ruined church, through which the sunlight streamed to-day, 
and into which German shells came crumpling, and then, 
with English troops fighting most splendidly on their right, 
they flung a loop round Bapaume by the memorial outside, 
and the suburb of Favreuil. The taking of Beugnatre — 
"Bug Nature" as our men call it — by the English troops 
sealed the fate of Bapaume, and when the New Zealanders 
and their English comrades swung down north-east of the 
town almost to the railway, the enemy saw that his game 
was up in this part of the world and decided to quit. The 
New Zealand boys had no need to take it by storm. They 
entered fighting through the machine-gun posts outside and 
took possession of its streets, having only three casualties 
in the town itself. 

That was yesterday, and to-day Bapaume is safely ours, 
with our men dribbling away over the heights beyond. Not 
many casualties have come back from this new battle. I 
saw some lightly wounded men here and there in advance 
dressing-stations fixed up in old ruined farmsteads behind 
our present lines, where the Red Cross flag floats over the 
broken walls or is thrust in the rafters of tileless roofs — 
little pictures of war which remain in one's heart as the 
stretchers are carried in and strong fellows help in their 
limping comrades as tenderly as women, while round about 
big shells are bursting from long-range guns. In all these 
places there were German wounded, and down the tracks 
from Bapaume came many German prisoners, captured a 
few hours ago in the new battle on the heights outside. 
They seemed to me a most wretched-looking lot of men, and 
I saw some hundreds of them newly caught. They had a 
dazed, senseless look, and were drooping and downcast like 
beaten animals. The worst-looking set of Germans I have 



THE BRITISH VICTORIES 81 

seen in recent days. And no wonder, for they must have 
had a dreadful and terrifying time, without rest from the 
pursuit of our men, and have been driven into the fight 
relentlessly by officers behind the lines. 

The roses on my table, plucked in Bapaume, are a sweeter 
sight than the things that lie about the battlefields, but the 
sweetness of life to our soldiers is that their courage and 
their sacrifice have not been in vain. To-day, as on many 
recent days, they are reaping the fruits of victory from one 
end of the line to the other, and the whole British Army 
is moving forward with a great vision in front of it, the 
vision of the last victory which will end all this fighting. 
I hear that up in the north the enemy is drawing back near 
the Lys, and it is possible that our patrols are in Bailleul. 



IV 

Round Peronne and Northwards 

September 2 
There is more good news to tell, and it is difficult for us 
war correspondents to keep pace with the advance of the 
troops in the different parts of the field. Good old Bailleul 
is in our hands again, but only as dust and ashes, for it is 
utterly destroyed, and the enemy is sneaking away from 
the country around, so that Kemmel Hill has been reached 
by our patrols. On the southern part of the fighting-line 
the Australians, who have advanced no fewer than twenty 
miles since the beginning of our attacking in August, have 
struck again, and this morning (Saturday) have, by most 
brilliant generalship and the fine gallantry of the men, 
seized Mont St.-Quentin, which dominates Peronne on the 
northern side, and with it have captured prisoners amount- 
ing to at least a thousand, as far as I can tell. There 
seemed more than that to me when I saw batches of them 
coming over the battlefields and down the tracks from the 



82 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

fighting-lines to-day when I went up to look at the prog- 
ress of this advance. The first batch I saw certainly 
numbered 200, marching with their of^cers ahead under 
escort of mounted Australians. They came tramping 
through the tall thistles that have grown between the shell- 
craters and barbed wire and old trenches of that wild 
desolation which stretches on both sides of the Somme 
for many miles, strewn with the frightful ruins of villages, 
black and fretted against the sky line. The German of- 
ficers walked gloomily in advance of their men, not speak- 
ing to each other, not looking much at the scenes around 
them, nor at the Australian soldiers moving their guns 
forward, but staring at the road ahead of them in gloomy 
thoughtfulness. A little later I saw down one of the 
tracks coming away from Clery and our lines about the 
Somme, under heavy shell-fire by the enemy at that time, 
a long, dark winding column. ''More prisoners/' said a 
friend of mine, and we were both startled by the large 
number of men. There was something like a battalion of 
these field-grey men, with about a dozen of their own of- 
ficers leading them, and they came down the track in good 
marching order, as though on their own side of the lines. 
A fairly sturdy lot they looked to me, far better than those 
I saw yesterday outside Bapaume, and they had put up a 
strong fight against the Australians, and were not taken 
easily as far as that went, though with amazingly light 
losses among their captors. Again their officers looked 
downcast and sullen. One, a colonel, I think, in the third 
rank of the officers, was a tall distinguished man, and 
stared at us as we passed with a kind of cold hatred in his 
eyes, carrying himself proudly in his humiliation. Other 
groups of prisoners came down through their own harassing 
fire, which was heavy on their right in a huddle of ruins 
called Flaucourt, and in the fields through which they had 
come where German guns were firing pot shots to catch our 
batteries and men. In one of our motor-wagons sat a 
dozen or more wounded prisoners, with dazed eyes and look 



THE BRITISH VICTORIES 83 

of utter exhaustion, and many of their walking comrades 
had bandaged heads and hands touched by our machine- 
gun bullets. 

All day yesterday the Australians tried to cross the 
Somme north and south of Peronne. They were close up 
to the river by Clery, on the north and in the loop south of 
Peronne by Biaches, but all the bridges had been blown up 
by the enemy, and he checked all attemps at throwing 
others across by intense shell-fire and by ceaseless machine- 
gun barrage from the opposite banks, where he was strongly 
entrenched. At Omiecourt there were Germans on the 
west bank of the river, the only place they held on that side 
of the Somme loops. With an ingenious courage that was 
not wasted of human life — the Australians do not believe 
in throwing their men away by foolhardy recklessness, 
though when there is need of sacrifice they have never held 
back — our troops tried to get hand-bridges across the canal, 
and, by amazing good luck joined to their own cunning, 
succeeded here and there without many casualties from the 
fire which slashed their side of the banks. Patrols went 
across these bridges, but found themselves faced by broad 
swamps, in which tall rushes grow and many ugly things 
are floating, but they could not find a single track along 
which men could pass towards Peronne. A new plan of 
action was decided upon by the Australian officers, and at 
half-past ten o'clock yesterday morning one of their units 
was ordered to work round Clery, on the north bank of the 
Somme, and cross the river near Feuilleres. Three bodies 
of Australian troops moved forward at about three o'clock 
yesterday afternoon, and came in touch with the enemy 
north-west of Clery, where they effected a junction with 
another stronger body of Australians moving forward still 
farther north. The Germans here fought very hard, and 
their machine-gunners served their weapons without sur- 
render, but at half -past eleven last night the Australians 
were masters of the ground to the east of Clery and had 
secured fifty prisoners, with fourteen machine guns. 



84 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

That was only the beginning of the main attack on Mont 
St.-Quentin. At five o'clock this morning the same body 
of troops moved forward again, and two hours previously 
some of their Australian comrades crossed the Somme at 
Omiecourt, south of them where engineers had been work- 
ing at a bridge all night. The assault on Mont St.-Quen- 
tin from the north bank of the Somme was begun without 
any definite barrage-line of artillery, but our guns con- 
centrated on certain areas, which they kept under violent 
fire, shifting to other places when the infantry went for- 
ward. The left objective of the Australian assault troops 
was the village of Feuillaucourt. The centre had Mont 
St.-Quentin as its goal, and the right set out to take Anvil 
Wood, below the hill. By half-past seven the whole line 
of objectives had been gained, and the enemy was badly 
beaten. 

The most extraordinary and splendid thing about this 
success, which will undoubtedly give us Peronne, is the 
cheap price paid for it by those great soldiers, the Aus- 
tralians. I know the actual figures of their losses in this 
assault on most difficult country, which presents the strong- 
est natural features of defence, and they are incredibly 
small, many times less than the total number of prisoners, 
and it is the more striking because in the first part of the 
battle this morning the Germans fought with really deter- 
mined courage and only surrendered freely when the Aus- 
tralians were well through their defences. Three hundred 
AustraHans on the left captured 600 prisoners, and another 
body of 300 or so took 250 in the centre. I do not know 
how many prisoners were taken by the troops on the right, 
but all told, as I have said, there are something like a thou- 
sand new birds in the cage from this morning's attack, 
which is still in progress. This is really something new 
in war, because the swamps about Peronne were ideal for 
defence, and frightful to attack, and on the other side of 
them the German machine-guns rained bullets upon the 
banks. The enemy was strong, too, in artillery, as I saw 






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THE BRITISH VICTORIES 85 

for myself this morning when I went up to the ground 
south of Mont St.-Quentin, past Dompierre and Fay, where 
in March of last year the graves gave up their dead, and 
past the black, lifeless trees of Herbecourt, through which 
the Australians had stormed their way, with Biaches and 
Flaucourt, old places of adventure and horror to the right 
of me as I stood watching the panorama of the battle. 

It was a scene of dark and rather awful aspect this 
morning, and nature helped to intensify its sombre tones. 
It had been raining heavily in short storms through the 
night and early morning, and now the sky was filled with 
enormous black clouds, pierced through with shafts of 
vivid light, against which the trunks of dead trees, the 
ribbed skeletons of ruined houses, and here and there a 
derelict Tank, an abandoned gun, a dead horse lying with 
its legs stuck up from the mangled earth, were etched 
sharply. Our heavy guns, which were behind me, were 
firing steadily, and their shells were bursting in the black 
woods beyond St.-Quentin Hill, flinging up clouds of green 
and white smoke, and the German artillery was replying 
fiercely, so that Mont St.-Ouentin and the valley below was 
seething with smoke and fire. The loud rush of our shells, 
the thunder-strokes of our heavy guns, were answered by 
the crash of German high explosives, following that high 
whistling which sets all one's senses on the alert as it travels 
nearer with an ascending note before the final smash. The 
ruined village of Flaucourt was not a health resort this 
morning, and had relapsed into evil, as when, a year and a 
half ago, I went there first, and, by a fluke of luck, escaped 
some 5.9's, which disturbed its deadly quietude. 

This morning the enemy did not like these ruins, and 
turned on a special battery to smash them to smaller bits. 
He was harassing the ground about, and an Australian 
officer whom I met in a dug-out there told me that a big 
"dud" had landed on his roof, failing to burst by a special 
providence which interferes with high explosives now and 
then, and that his corporal had just had a ''Blighty" from 



86 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

a shell-splinter. But this officer and his men were not 
worrying much, and stood out in the open, some in steel 
helmets and some with the wind blowing their hair, watch- 
ing the bombardment and the progress of the battle. "It's 
good to be on the old ground," I said, still stirred by a 
journey miles out of Amiens, which a little while ago was 
closely girdled by hostile guns. The Australian officer 
laughed, and said, ''It's a pity we couldn't start where we 
left off last year. Our lads don't like covering the same 
ground twice. They want to get nearer to Berlin." *They 
have been going ahead at a fine pace," I said, and he 
grinned, and answered, *'It suits them better than trench 
warfare. It's sitting still that gets on their nerves." 
Well, the British Army is not sitting still these days, and 
along a wide front and all behind the lines the forward 
movement goes on, and nobody who has not seen a vast 
army on the move, with all its works and supplies, can 
imagine the world of activity which is now along the battle- 
front, and the lines of communication creeping forward 
mile after mile over that abomination of desolation which 
leads up to the moving front line. 

September 3 
One fine feature of the Australian capture of Mont St.- 
Quentin which led the way to the taking of Peronne, now 
ours, after fierce fighting in the streets with the 2nd Ger- 
man Guards, was the rapid manner in which they moved 
their guns forward over the Somme, and fired at close 
range on the enemy. This was largely due to the work of 
their engineers at the river crossings. At one of these they 
discovered several land mines laid by the Germans with 
trap wires artfully concealed, but they routed them out 
and prevented explosion. Part of the secret of the light 
Australian losses in this attack was the quick way in which 
they dived into the German trenches before Clery, getting 
shelter there after they had taken 150 prisoners, so that the 
hail of machine-gun bullets passed harmlessly over their 



THE BRITISH VICTORIES 87 

heads. In the fighting from August 26 until yesterday 
morning they took fully ten times more prisoners than their 
own total casualties, which must be a record in this war. 

The individual gallantry of the men has reached the high 
summit of audacity, as when an Australian corporal in a 
recent action one day, after receiving the V.C, heard his 
comrades debating how they could destroy an enemy post 
which was giving them great trouble, and said to them, 
'That's all right ; I'll take it." He slipped one Mills bomb 
in his pocket, crawled through the tall corn, jumped into 
the German trench, felled the first man he saw, and by 
sheer force of spirit so cowed the garrison of the German 
post that one officer and thirteen men surrendered to him. 
Trying to keep pace with our advances day by day, one 
misses individual exploits, and can record only movements 
in mass and general adventures of great bodies of men, 
but to me the average courage is most marvellous, as one 
sees the men carrying on in those battlefields where, for 
miles behind the lines, as well as in the fighting-line, there 
is never a respite from the harassing fire. 

It is in the centre of our battle-front by Bullecourt, Rien- 
court, and Ecoust and Vraucourt, now recaptured by us 
to-day, that the enemy has been putting up his fiercest re- 
sistance, and that our men have had hard and bitter fight- 
ing. I have narrated how our London lads captured Croi- 
silles a few days ago, and went on to Bullecourt, which they 
took also by grim assault. West Lancashire troops of the 
57th Division on their left had attacked and taken Hende- 
court, and some of their patrols had entered Riencourt, 
while on the right of this line of attack some of the 3rd 
Division and other men had entered Ecoust, Longatte, and 
Vraucourt. That was the situation on Thursday and 
Friday; but under a fierce counter-attack this part of our 
line was hard-pressed, and not all the ground we had made 
could be kept. It threatened the enemy's main line of 
defence in the Drocourt-Oueant line, which he must hold 
at all costs to safeguard the whole of his Hindenburg line, 



88 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

of which this is the switch, and he sent up a fresh division, 
the 58th, to strengthen the mixed units of the 36th and 
I2th Reserve Divisions, which had been badly shattered 
and demorahzed. 

For the first time also our men came up against dis- 
mounted German cavalry, including the 15th Dragoons, 
and men of the 7th Cavalry Division, whose presence shows 
the enemy's desperate needs of reserves. They fought hard 
and resolutely, and by repeated assaults gained back part 
of Bullecourt, Ecoust, and other ground. Round Bulle- 
court there are two strong earthworks into which the enemy 
had crowded machine-gun teams, one called Factory Re- 
doubt and the other Station Redoubt, by the railway em- 
bankment, and it was these places which gave the Middle- 
sex and Kensington battalions their hardest hours. From 
Factory Redoubt the enemy swept the troops on our right 
with machine-gun fire, and the Londoners, who failed for a 
time to clear it out, in spite of repeated efforts, were ordered 
to draw back some hundred yards from Bullecourt to avoid 
the severe fire which was being poured upon them, and to 
prepare for a new assault. 

On Friday night the enemy, who had brought up many 
new batteries in this direction, suspected this intention, and 
put down a very heavy barrage of fire in depth in order to 
prevent new assaults. But yesterday morning London 
troops, with Liverpool men on their right, and other Lan- 
cashire men on their left, gave battle again. They had the 
support of a number of Tanks, which advanced with them, 
and made direct attacks upon the German redoubts, while 
our light whippets hunted around to destroy machine-gun 
and sniping posts. Middlesex men took Factory Redoubt, 
with some prisoners, and London Scottish were successful 
in storming Station Redoubt on the south, without heavy 
loss. Here the whippets were of great service, working 
close up and keeping the redoubt under the fire of their 
light guns. Four hundred prisoners of German dragoons 
were captured in that hornet's nest. 



THE BRITISH VICTORIES 89 

Meanwhile, on the right, the 13th Liverpools advanced 
again upon Longatte and Ecoust, and stormed some 
trenches which had previously been taken by the Suffolks 
of the 3rd Division in the earlier fighting, and took prison- 
ers well east of Ecoust. But all this ground was still hotly 
contested, and the enemy renewed his counter-attacks in 
great strength yesterday, so that there was fighting in and 
out of villages, and from one hour to another there was no 
certainty as to their possession on either side. 

Last night, as on Friday night, the methods of old 
trench warfare, with its close, nagging fighting by bomb- 
ing down trenches and struggling for yards of ground, 
was resumed ; but it seems that this morning the Londoners 
again took full possession of Bullecourt, and Lancashire bat- 
talions of the 57th Division gained Hendecourt and Rien- 
court. It is the worst form of fighting, and our men much 
prefer free sweeping movements and wide advances, but 
here they were right up against the enemy's main defensive 
positions, for which he will fight with all his powers of 
resistance, knowing that if he is beaten there his Hinden- 
burg line will be in dire jeojardy. So the boys of London 
— old London, which on this Sunday evening will be in its 
best clothes, with church bells ringing, and all its pretty girls 
in the parks, where no shell-fire slashes through the trees 
— were in the thick of it under an abominable bombard- 
ment in ditches which they have taken by bloody fighting, 
and with machine-gun bullets flying like swarms of wasps 
on all sides of them. They have fought gloriously through 
miles of enemy ground since August 23, when they went 
through the line of Boyelles and Bory Becquerelles, and 
broke the Hindenburg line, as once before, in April of last 
year. Every day since they have fought a battle, and all 
the pluck and pride that lives in London streets has been 
revealed on those fields of ruin, in which each tract between 
that litter and wreckage of war is a highway of heroes, 
from Balham and Tulse Hill and the Old Kent Road, and 
other places which were not supposed to be the breeding- 



90 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

grounds of heroic manhood. BuPecourt belongs to London. 

Further north the Canadians have been having hard 
fighting after their first triumphant march, with hundreds 
of prisoners in their wake. South of the Scarpe, by Ge- 
mappe and Vis-en- Artois, the German resistance has stif- 
fened, for the same reason as it did at Bullecourt, because 
our progress here imperils their whole line of defence. So 
they have flung in what reserves they can gather, and some 
of the best troops that remain to them, and they are 
counter-attacking and firing every battery they can bring 
to bear on this ground, with ferocious intent. French- 
Canadians lately have taken part in some very fierce as- 
saults, and have been through perilous adventures, but with 
that grim courage which is always theirs when they have 
to go through hell fire, as at Courcelette, on the Somme, in 
the old first battles, and many times round Lens. 

To the Highlanders of the 51st Division north of them 
at Pelves and outside Plouvain they pay high tribute, grate- 
ful for that strong flank on their left held by kilted men 
through days of ceaseless fire. We have not been making 
further headway there, and our men have only been asked 
to hold the ground they won, though that is not a light and 
joyous thing to do. 

Meanwhile, on our northern front, our battle-line is mov- 
ing again, and our men are following up the enemy rear- 
guards, who are covering another programme of retire- 
ment, forced upon the enemy by his enormous losses, which 
compel him, against his pride and will, to shorten his line, 
even at the loss of positions of immense importance to him. 
His withdrawal from Bailleul has been followed by a retire- 
ment from Kemmel Hill, and positions on the west side of 
the Ypres-Comines Canal, so that our patrols are reported 
to be at Vierstraat and Vormezeele and Lindenhoek. His 
rear-guards are fighting stubbornly to hold us back until he 
has gained the time he needs for his defensive plans, but 
apparently our troops have hustled him off the Ravelsberg 



THE BRITISH VICTORIES 91 

Ridge, on the east of Bailleul, and are driving him through 
Neuve Eglise. 

So after the strange vicissitudes of this year's warfare 
v^e are getting back again into that old ground of Flan- 
ders, the loss of which for a time was a hard thing to 
bear, because of all the sacrifice of our men through years 
of fighting and the desperate conquest of the Flanders 
ridges. As I have been on the southern end of the line 
from Bapaume downwards to Devil's Wood and the out- 
skirts of Peronne, I have not yet been up into Flanders 
to see this new phase, but from afar a thrill comes to us to 
know that Bailleul, that good old friendly town of Bailleul, 
which I have known for years as the capital of our north- 
ern armies, and saw in April last on fire from hostile shell- 
ing, is no longer in enemy hands, and that once again our 
men are walking over Kemmel Hill, from which we used 
to watch the enemy's lines and see the sweep of battle in the 
salient. 

Kemmel Hill will not be a pleasant place for a walk for 
some time to come. The enemy has doubtless arranged 
many devilish devices there, such as trip wires, which touch 
off high explosives. He has been busy with those filthy 
tricks along many parts of the Front, and has arranged a 
variety of traps which would blow men to death if they 
touch innocent-looking objects. One of these things had 
the appearance of a book lying on a shelf, but when moved 
it set off a bomb to carry a man's hand away. But our 
engineers are quick to see the trick of the wire, and by this 
time perhaps they have searched Kemmel for its secrets. 

Before going the enemy blew up his ammunition dump 
and the material too heavy to move. I know some French- 
men who will be glad that Kemmel is in our hands again, 
for when we were hardest pressed in April last it was 
French troops who defended this hill and lost it after tragic 
fighting. I met those French troops who held the outer 
defences holding their line at Locre with the most self- 
sacrificing courage under dreadful fire, which, they told 



92 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

me, was far worse than anything they had seen at Fleury, 
by Verdun. Perhaps some of my readers will remember 
what I wrote about that old French colonel who was there, 
that gallant old man who was so proud of his children, 
as he called them. It will be a sweet vengeance to him to 
know that the Germans have to creep away from Kemmel 
again. 

The enemy's object is easy to guess, and, indeed, he has 
revealed it beyond much doubt. To save his man-power, 
thinned out by the frightful losses in this year of a devil's 
gamble with Fate, he is, I believe, retiring to a line north 
and south of Armentieres, hoping, perhaps, to hold the line 
of ridges from Wytschaete and Messines, as in the old 
days when we were in the low country of the Ypres salient. 

Looking at the general situation as it exists after yes- 
terday's and to-day's successes at Peronne, it seems to me 
that we have practically reached the result of the British 
offensive which began on August 8, and has had the result 
of flinging back the enemy from the ground which he 
traversed after March 21, when he hurled the full weight 
of his available forces upon the British front, with odds of 
three to one in the hope of destroying us for ever. In less 
than four weeks we have almost completely reversed the 
the table of fortune, so that he has been smashed back 
twenty miles and more, and all the country between Amiens 
and Bapaume, and Amiens and Peronne, is cleared of his 
men, except of those who lie dead in ditches and craters; 
while north of the Scarpe we have gone further than ever 
before in this war; and, further north still, the Germans are 
forced to withdraw from positions which they gained by 
enormous sacrifice, without our being troubled to fight them. 

That is the wonderful chapter of history, and the 
triumph of it, the marvel of it, is that these victories have 
been gained very largely by those very troops who sus- 
tained the full brunt of the German offensive in March, 
again in April when the enemy made his attack in Flanders, 
and once again were engaged — some of them, like the High- 



THE BRITISH VICTORIES 93 

land Division — in the French assaults near Rheims. No 
troops in the world or in history have been more tried by 
fire, and never, as far as my knowledge of history goes, have 
any masses of men struck such a succession of rapid and 
victorious blows after battling so long in rear-guard and 
holding actions with heavy losses, enormous fatigue, and 
the mental strain of intense activity and never-ending 
danger. 

Our Australian and Canadian troops were fresher than 
our English battalions because they had escaped the previous 
battles more than those, and since they have done wonders. 
We could not have achieved these results without them, but 
the greatest glory of human endurance goes to the Eng- 
lish, Scottish, and Irish battalions who fought in the re- 
treat of March, who fought again in Flanders, who suf- 
fered losses which would have broken the spirit of weaker 
men, and who now, in these recent weeks, have beaten the 
enemy fairly and squarely back over the same ground. 
During the past day or two the enemy has recovered some- 
what, it seems, from the demoralization which overtook 
his men, and has brought up divisions which are fighting 
hard to save the reputation of the German army, but that 
army as a whole, will never recover its prestige or its 
power, however long they maintain their defensive war- 
fare — and it will be long yet. 

This autumn some 400,000 boys of the 1920 class may 
fill up the gaps in their ranks, and they will be well-trained 
young soldiers, capable, no doubt, of hard fighting; but 
Germany has lost in weeks so many in prisoners and 
wounded that these new drafts will not give her back the 
initiative. Everything that follows must be a further de- 
cline in her strength and fighting quality, and the knowl- 
edge of her doom is upon her. There have been various 
factors in our success, never to be separated from the 
courage of our men, to whom victory is due, and undoubt- 
edly the Tanks have helped most to secure surprise and 
terror. We have many proofs that the German command 



94 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

recognizes them as a terrible menace, and one is a captured 
German order which says that the enemy only attacks with 
Tanks. "If we shoot the Tanks to pieces, we shall have 
won the battle." And then bribes men to destroy the 
Tanks by offers of decorations. 

Many other captured documents reveal the decline in the 
discipline of the German troops, owing to their frightful 
losses and weariness of the war, as well as real demoraliza- 
tion in tne fighting-line. In Germany there is reason for 
that sense of despair and fear which seems to prevail there. 
Now that Peronne and Bullecourt have fallen the enemy 
has the Hindenburg line as his next refuge, and there he 
will hope to stand, if attacked further, but even that is 
broken in the north, and his Drocourt-Queant switch-line 
is severely threatened. We may rest content with this re- 
sult of our renewed offensive. Whatever may follow will 
begin a new chapter of the war, which promises further 
victory, helping us to the last victory which will end all this 
frightful strife. 

V 

Through the Drocourt-Queant Line 

September 4 
More than 10,000 prisoners behind our lines are the best 
human proof of yesterday's victory when our troops broke 
the Drocourt-Queant line, and to-day the enemy is in hard 
retreat from a wide belt of country north and south of the 
Arras-Cambrai road, in a desperate hurry to escape lest his 
transport and troops may be encircled by our men, who are 
pressing their pursuit. The capture of Queant last night 
by our naval brigades, with Pronville beyond it, gives us the 
enemy's most important pivot, where the Drocourt line 
joined the main Hindenburg line, which has been com- 
pletely turned, so that this fortress position on which the 
Germans set their hopes of safety in defence is now in 



THE BRITISH VICTORIES 95 

jeopardy. Lowland Scots of the 52nd Division are walk- 
ing along the Hindenburg line south-east of Queant, clear- 
ing it of any men who may still be in hiding there, while 
the naval men of the Drakes and Hoods and Ansons and 
Marines are following the line of the Hindenburg support- 
trenches, and curving downwards to the valley of the Hiron- 
delle river, and across its slopes, to get astride of the 
Bapaume-Cambrai road, which is the enemy's line of re- 
treat for all his heavy transport scurrying away, and burn- 
ing their stores and camps behind them. 

There are great possibilities of success in this situation 
to-day, when beyond any doubt the enemy is more panic- 
stricken, as he has all need to be, than at any time in this 
war, having lost his strongest defensive positions, many 
battalions of men, of whom he is in desperate want, and is 
at his wits' end to gather fresh reserves in time to make a 
stand before much more is lost. Our troops, among whom 
I have been to-day, are not in a mood to make things easy 
for him, and are exerting their utmost strength of body and 
spirit, not heeding need of sleep or rest, to keep those Ger- 
mans on the move and rattled out of their halting-places. 

In my message yesterday I said how the German Com- 
mand had scraped up every unit of every division which 
still gave some hope of fighting quality, in order to counter- 
attack us with ferocity and gain back their Hindenburg 
line. Ten divisions were identified against us in the region 
of Cagnicourt and Dury, and we took prisoners of every 
company of every regiment yesterday, as I saw them 
streaming back without escort over the battlefields, beaten 
and glad of capture, and to-day again I have seen many 
more trudging down our tracks after last night's progress. 
But until last evening it seemed likely that those Germans 
would show some kind of strength, and come back at us 
with a grim endeavour to retrieve their losses. That did 
not happen. What did happen was a steady forward move- 
ment of our men all through the darkness of last night, 
all through its rainstorms, until the light of dawn came and 



X 



96 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

they moved faster still to make more gains, and every- 
where the enemy yielded before them, and in some places, 
like Queant, the key position of all his line, he crept away 
in advance of our men without a show of fighting. 

The Canadians and English held the line last evening 
east of Eterpigny Wood, south-eastwards to Dury and 
Villers-le-Cagnicourt, and thence southwards to our side of 
Inchy. They, too, were expecting counter-attacks, and at 
one time the airmen reported Germans massing in a wood 
called Aubigny-au-Bois, covered by an aerial escort of nine- 
teen air scouts. Some of our flying men tried to break 
through that formation of aeroplanes, but only one of our 
pilots could get past them under cover of the clouds, and 
then he bombed the assembling troops so fiercely that they 
were broken up, and never came forward. The night was 
quiet on the Canadian front, and in the morning their troops 
advanced again, to the west of Saudemont, and then on- 
wards two miles further, beyond Inchy, and towards that 
old evil forest of Bourlon Wood, where last November 
our men of the 62nd Division and others fought in clouds 
of poison gas and under storms of shells. English troops 
of the 4th Division working with the Canadians on their 
left took the village of Etaing last night, with sixty prison- 
ers, and this morning their patrols went into Recourt Wood, 
east of that, encountering the enemy rear-guards, but not 
meeting stubborn resistance anywhere, so that they went 
beyond to the high plateau 1000 yards further. The en- 
emy shelled the village of Recourt as soon as our men were 
in it, so quickly that it is clear his gunners expected us to 
arrive, and their fighting-line withdrew some distance back, 
leaving a wide No Man's Land for our men to cross. 

It was reported this morning that German troops were 
debouching in Marquion across the Arras-Cambrai road, 
not far from their rear-guards, and our guns found this 
place for their target. 

Meanwhile our West Lancashires, Naval Brigades, and 
Lowland Scots of the 57th, 63rd, and 52nd Divisions were 



THE BRITISH VICTORIES 97 

advancing steadily below the Canadians. I told yesterday- 
how the West Lancashires attacked in the morning in line 
with the Canadians after much hard fighting on previous 
days, and then swung southwards and cleared out the tri- 
angle between the Hindenburg support line and Calling 
Wood, where many pockets of the enemy remained with 
machine-gun nests, giving much trouble by their cross-fire. 
They did this with dogged courage, and in one place south 
of Bois de Bouche Marines of our Naval Brigades helped 
them to crush one of these wasps' nests. The naval men 
now came into action, determined to get their own back 
and go far forward after their adventures last March, when 
they had to fall back before the enemy across the Somme 
battlefields, where I met them then fighting bitter rear- 
guard actions. They had to march far yesterday over 
ground which I travelled to-day, so that I know the look 
of it and the smell of it and the horror of it. All behind 
our present front, which is moving forward so quickly, 
there is for many miles a wide stricken wilderness. There 
are no landmarks here as even now on the Somme battle- 
fields, where at least there are rivers and roads and nat- 
ural features upon which imagination may fasten for re- 
membrance. But here beyond Neuville-Vitasse and Boiry 
and Croisilles there is nothing but a landscape of far monot- 
ony rising and falling slightly from one slope to another, 
without high roads cutting across it, without a river val- 
ley to break its lines, without even ruins more than rub- 
bish-heaps of brick which once were hamlets. Trenches 
marked by hummocks of white chalk zigzag over this in- 
fernal desolation, where tangles of barbed wire, all rusted 
to the colour of withered bracken, piles of abandoned shells 
gleaming wet in the rain, thousands of German stick- 
bombs, gas-masks, helmets, boots, rifles, shattered gun- 
limbers, lorries slashed to pieces by explosives, huts broken 
to matchwood, are flung about between tumbled-down dug- 
outs, deserted gun-pits, overturned blockhouses, dead 
horses, and deep shell-pits. 



98 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

Through this plague-stricken land mile after mile to the 
far horizon our men are marching and our guns are going 
up, and our tents are pitched, and our wounded come walk- 
ing down. To them it has become a familiar sight. They 
do not turn their heads to study how all this obscenity of 
the wilderness of death is changed to different tones of 
evil or of grimness when the sunlight breaks through the 
rainclouds and washes it all with a pale gold light, reveal- 
ing more sharply the detail of it all, or how it is darkened 
when the sun is hidden by a black wrack of clouds piled 
up above the distant slopes. Yet there was one feature 
of the landscape to which the Naval men turned their heads 
when they marched up to battle. It is the only thing left 
standing in all this ruin behind our lines with some char- 
acter and meaning beyond mere ruin. In the centre of 
Croisilles, which has been quite destroyed, so that hardly 
one brick stands whole upon another, there is a Calvary 
of life-size figures. The figure of Christ has been smashed 
from the Cross and lies face upwards on a little hillock, 
but the Madonna is still left, almost unscarred, I think, 
and foremost the figure of St. John stands out above all 
this wreckage with a queer gesture of pity for the evil that 
has been done. I write these things so that people who do 
not see them may have in their minds' eye the scenes 
through which our men are passing ; yet no words of mine 
can give more than a faint blurred image of what this deso- 
lation is really like. For miles our Naval Brigades marched 
through this until they reached their line of action, south 
of the Canadians and below Bouche Wood. 

As I have said, some Royal Marines turned aside to go 
to the help of the West Lancashires, but two other bodies 
of Marines and Ansons, followed by Hawkes, Drakes, and 
Hoods, went forward to their first objectives, swinging 
south-eastwards in order to come down to the valley of 
the Hirondelle, or the Agache Valley, as it is sometimes 
called, in order to block it below Inchy. Here and there 
they were checked by machine-gun fire from German 



THE BRITISH VICTORIES 99 

strongholds, but they were successful in destroying these 
posts, and passed on. They passed beyond the range and 
help of their guns for a time into the zone of open war- 
fare, having to rely utterly upon their own rifles and ma- 
chine-guns for fire-power. Their machine-guns did ter- 
rible work among the enemy. One team fired 30,000 
rounds at the retreating Germans, and many men fell un- 
der this sweeping fire. 

Very cunningly and rapidly our naval machine-gun 
crews worked their way forward, with patrols and small 
bodies of infantry, enfilading the German positions and 
getting their targets. After all the first objectives had 
been taken one brigadier went round his forward line, ex- 
amined the problem ahead, and, satisfied that his men could 
go further without grave peril, ordered them to advance 
again, and keep going as long as they did not lose touch 
with each other, or meet trouble in overwhelming odds. 
Darkness came, but they did not stop, and still crept on 
slowly and cautiously into the enemy's country, until dawn 
came, when they found themselves on the west side of 
Inchy, with Queant and Pronville below them, and the val- 
ley curving down south-eastward. Their duty was to 
block the valley and to capture Queant by this turning 
movement from the north. 

According to this plan, they spread out and went down 
the slopes to the valley on the east side of Queant and 
Pronville, closer to them than had been intended at first, 
but achieving the same result. All the Germans had fled 
from Queant before their arrival, panic-stricken at the 
knowledge that we were behind their lines and bearing 
down on them. A small garrison of seventy men were 
still holding out in Pronville, and these surrendered to a 
man when they found themselves surrounded. 

Later this morning the Naval Brigades advanced again 
below Inchy, towards the Bapaume-Cambrai road, the ob- 
ject, as I have said, being to cut this artery of the Ger- 
man retreat. If they are successful, it is almost certain 



100 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

that they will hamper the movement of the German forces 
in the sharp retreat further south, and they will prevent 
the withdrawal of the heavy transport. So far the enemy 
has succeeded in getting away most of his guns, but has 
been forced to blow up some of his howitzers, which are 
now behind our lines, with their crews as prisoners. 

The work of our own gunners in getting forward to keep 
pace as far as possible with the infantry advance has been 
very fine, and I saw to-day how our batteries were strain- 
ing every nerve to follow up over all this wild, roadless 
land. Some of our 6o-pounders, which are heavy and 
slow-going weapons, were already so far forward that at 
noon to-day they opened rapid fire on to the cross-roads 
outside Cambrai, so that this highway must have been a 
terror to the crowded German transport struggling back in 
their retreat. 

German prisoners coming back through this ground 
watched our gun teams gloomily, understanding the mean- 
ing and marvel of all this movement towards their lines, 
where cheery young gunner of^cers called to their men to 
carry on and make haste after the Hun, and gunner colo- 
nels rode forward to prospect new positions, and the trans- 
port men tethered their horses in fields from which the 
enemy had gone only a little while ago, leaving a fright- 
ful litter and filth behind him. Small groups of prisoners 
passed and passed, so that we must have gone well beyond 
that 10,000, and in the wired enclosures stood new arrivals, 
who had drifted down after the night, and were now under 
guard, miserable-looking men, sleeping themselves into for- 
getfulness of war, or pacing up and down like animals in 
a cage, or munching the food v/hich we had provided. 
They were very hungry, many of them having gone sev- 
eral days without supplies, owing to the chaos and disor- 
ganization behind the German line. But one figure among 
these groups attracted my attention more than others, be- 
cause of his gay plumage. It was a young German cavalry 
officer, like a caricature by Hansi, in sky-blue coat with 



THE BRITISH VICTORIES 101 

red collar, almost too beautiful to be true in time of war. 
He was a haughty young man, too proud to speak, even 
with German infantry officers, so that he kept aloof from 
them, and paced up and down, up and down, as he had 
been doing, I am told, for many hours. 

There were numbers of dismounted cavalrymen among 
our prisoners, wearing a yellow band round their caps, and 
belonging to the 7th Cavalry Division, which has been al- 
most completely destroyed during the last twenty-four 
hours. These men curse the fate which brought them to 
the Western Front after an easy time in Russia, where 
they knew nothing of British barrages and believed the 
war was won. In one camp not far from Arras there 
were to-day several thousands of prisoners belonging to 
ten different divisions, and looking at them one might well 
wonder whether at last one might be justified in believing , 
that the German army is beginning to crack. Only just 
beginning, and not near breaking-point yet. Up in the 
north they are still drawing back in Flanders, and on the 
other side of Peronne the Australians are gaining much 
of our old ground. Whole German armies on both fronts 
are being forced into retreat, and how they will camou- 
flage all this under the eyes of their own people or explain 
what cannot be explained away is an interesting problem. 

Our men are full of hope and eagerness to make an end 
of the whole business, to strike so hard and go so fast that 
the enemy will have no time to recover. To end the year 
with peace is what inspires the hearts of our men, and for 
that they will fight with their spirits keyed high. Perhaps 
our wishes go beyond realities, but at least the vision is 
good. 

Some of our men are on their way back to something 
like peace already. Red Cross trains are coming down 
from the casualty clearing-stations with the "Blighty" men. 
They lie close to the windows, and, having passed down 
from that abominable land where nothing grows between 
shell-craters but rank grass and weeds, and where there is 



102 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

nothing human except their human selves in this devilish 
desert of v^ar, they travel now behind the lines into the 
sweet, good country of France, where the last of the har- 
vest is being gathered in, and bronzed wheatsheaves stand 
in stubbled fields, and peasant girls wave hands to them, 
and small boys and girls watch by clover patches where 
sleek cattle feed and white sun-drenched clouds are piled 
high above peaceful villages. Through this landscape near 
to the scene of war our wounded pass homeward bound 
after their great victories. 

September 14 
Fighting continued throughout yesterday and into the 
night for our possession of Havrincourt village, Trescault, 
Moeuvres, and the neighbouring ground, taken by the gal- 
lant and skilful fighting of Lancashire troops and York- 
shire troops of the 62nd Division, and some troops of the 
Rifle Brigade and 60th Rifles in the 37th Division, and 
New Zealanders. It developed into a much bigger success 
than I knew yesterday, as I discovered to-day when I went 
up into that area, and found that the number of prisoners 
had reached the total of eleven officers and 1018 men — 
those I have seen are a sturdy lot — and that the day's action 
had resulted in a fine and complete success, taking us across 
another section of the Hindenburg line at Havrincourt, and 
south of that, back into our old lines, which we held be- 
fore our attack in the Cambrai salient last year. 

The hardest task lay in front of the riflemen, who had 
Trescault and its neighbourhood as their goal. They, with 
battalions of Royal Fusiliers, Essex, Hertfordshires, Som- 
ersets and Lincolns, have been working on the left of the 
New Zealanders since the beginning of our offensive in 
August. They had already been nine weeks in the line be- 
fore that. Starting somewhere by Bucquoy, smashing 
their way across the deep cutting outside Achiet-le-Grand, 
where they captured 400 machine-guns, fighting a hard 
battle at Bihucourt, pushing on to Biefvillers, and then fol- 



THE BRITISH VICTORIES 103 

lowing up the enemy, of whom they had taken over 2000 
men, to the edge of Havrincourt Wood. 

It is evident that the enemy intended to defend this 
wood seriously. On the edge of it he had dug new rifle 
pits in double rows, and held these with strong bodies of 
marksmen with machine-guns. But our English battal- 
ions, in a quick dash at the end of their day's advance, swept 
through the north-west corner of the wood, only a part 
not defended in such strength, while New Zealanders 
rushed forward below the wood. That outflanks the Ger- 
mans in their rifle-pits, and they retreated during the night. 
A little while before our English had been fighting hard 
for possession of the spoil-heap on one side of the Canal- 
du-Nord, which is 90 feet deep hereabouts, and had driven 
the enemy off its mound — in the old days of our adven- 
ture in the Cambrai salient I watched a battle from there 
— and across the canal, so making way for further prog- 
ress towards Havrincourt village. 

Round about Moeuvres two bodies of English troops, 
including several Lancashire battalions, were having hard 
fighting against desperate resistance, but they succeeded 
in capturing the village yesterday, and later in the day broke 
up a strong and determined counter-attack, inflicting se- 
vere losses on the enemy. 

Yesterday morning the 62nd Division, of Yorkshire 
troops, on the left of the Rifles, who had New Zealanders 
on the right, assembled for an attack from Havrincourt to 
Gouzeaucourt. The Rifle Brigade and the King s Royal 
Rifles changed their front, and drew up before the battle 
on the south-east edge of Havrincourt Wood, spending anx- 
ious hours there lest the enemy should soak them with gas. 
But when dawn came on a day of foul weather they still 
breathed freely, and when our guns opened fire they went 
ahead. There was no preliminary bombardment beyond 
the usual slogging of the guns, brought up as I saw them 
to-day by miracles of labour, through miles of old battle- 
fields now deep in mud. 



104. THE WAY TO VICTORY 

At the beginning of the battle these opened rapid fire 
and provided a creeping barrage, behind which our men 
marched to meet their enemy. It was no surprise to the 
Germans. On the south of our new front of attack, by 
Gouzeaucourt, they had brought up their Jaeger division, 
and opposite the Yorkshiremen and the Rifles they had their 
113th and 52nd Divisions, both of which have suffered 
heavily in recent history, and have not received any drafts 
to make up their wastage — a most remarkable state of af- 
fairs, observed elsewhere during these battles of the month, 
which have an important significance, revealing an almost 
unexpected weakness in German resources of man-power. 

The troops here had been ordered to hold on to the Hav- 
rincourt, Trescault, and Gouzeaucourt line of defence at 
any price in blood, and on the whole they did their best to 
fulfil this command yesterday. They fought hard, espe- 
cially hard in the line which defended the crest of the ridge, 
though the men in the foremost lines below the crest were 
broken easily. They were very strong on the ridge be- 
hind Trescault village, and in a strong point called Bilhem 
Farm, at the end of the spur, and it was there that the rifle- 
men had the greatest trouble with machine-gunners and 
the German infantry. There was a trench — one of our 
old trenches — newly organized bending backwards, from 
Trescault on the outer boundary of our objective for about 
400 yards, which was reconnoitred by the battalion com- 
mander at the end of the day's fighting, and he found it 
held by a strong force of the enemy. His men then at- 
tacked it, and after a sharp encounter with men who resisted 
fiercely, captured it with 140 prisoners and eighteen ma- 
chine-guns. The strong point of Bilhem Farm, from which 
I once saw our Tanks going into action, was taken very 
neatly by an encircling movement of two small bodies of 
riflemen, who worked north and south of it, and joined 
hands on the other side. 

Meanwhile, the Yorkshires of the 62nd Division had 
stormed the heights of Havrincourt, gaining the chateau 



THE BRITISH VICTORIES 105 

and its grounds, and a clear view over the enemy positions 
below and away to Bourlon Wood, and on the south the 
New Zealanders were pushing forward to Gouzeaucourt 
Wood, which they took in the evening. Gradually through 
the day the numbers of prisoners increased, as their dug- 
outs and hiding-places were searched, until at night, from 
all parts of this front, over a thousand had dribbled back. 
For a time it seemed likely that the enemy was preparing 
to deliver a formidable counter-attack. His troops were 
seen massing in the valleys and sunken roads, and low- 
flying aeroplanes came out in reconnaissance to support 
the infantry by bombing and machine-gunning. 

The attack was delivered at seven last night against the 
Yorkshires of the 62nd, and the Rifles of the 37th, Di- 
visions, but our gun-fire smashed it, and small parties of 
men were dealt with by rifle-fire. It is possible they will 
try again, but so far, while I was on that front to-day, 
there was no German activity beyond pot-shots from long- 
range guns. I passed a little group of prisoners newly 
caught this morning, mostly of the 113th Division, and 
many of those taken yesterday were resting on their way 
back in ruins of their own making in this world of ruin. 
They were muddy, but not ill-clad. I noticed especially 
their good field-boots and their thick grey tunics. They 
stared about them in an animal way, like trapped beasts, 
but were alert and respectful when spoken to by our offi- 
cers, and seemed content to sit and stare at the passing of 
our men and guns. 

It is a queer sensation to go through this country again 
beyond Bapaume, down old roads which were familiar to 
us last year, through these fields and villages, where, amidst 
old ruin and wreckage, we built thousands of Nissen huts 
and many officers' clubs and cinema sheds, and pitched 
camps of tents and established workshops, and camouflaged 
many gun positions. For a time, which now seems like 
a nightmare, all that sweep of country was overrun again 
by the enemy, and was twenty miles or more behind his 



106 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

lines, and now once again the evil spell has lifted from it; 
the grey wolves have gone, and only their lairs remain, 
and the things that belonged to their brief tenancy. 

Things tragic and things abominable. Everywhere now 
among our old graves, the graves of our dead boys, there 
are new graves of German soldiers. They stick up out 
of the mud and the swamps in these ravaged fields, with 
wooden crosses, different in shape from ours, and sur- 
mounted with the steel helmets camouflaged by streaks of 
colour belonging to men below who walked in them down 
these roads. Dead bodies not yet buried and dead horses 
lie amidst the muck-heaps of these battlegrounds, and 
everywhere there are old boots, old bottles, strips of field- 
grey uniforms, haversacks, stick bombs, German letters, 
the litter of masses of men who went away in a hurry. 
They are great signwriters, these Germans, and everywhere 
for miles and miles, at every turn in the road, at every 
broken wall leading to a village smashed to dust and ashes, 
there are notices on big boards warning German soldiers 
not to loiter there because of English aircraft, pointing the 
way to dug-outs and fire trenches, signifying wells, dress- 
ing-stations, isolation camps for mangy horses, workshops, 
and field kitchens, and the inevitable Kommandatur. 

They are the notices of a life that has passed a few days 
ago or a few weeks ago, and from them one is able to pic- 
ture in one's mind how it all looked here when thousands 
of field-grey men swarmed in all these places. The spirit 
of the grey wolf still lurks about these ruins, because wher- 
ever men have been they leave a little of themselves like 
a ghostly exhalation. In a wood not far from Havrin- 
court to-day there were more than a few relics of the late 
German occupation. Finely camouflaged under the trees, 
the 14th Reserve Corps had made their headquarters here 
when the place was beyond our gun range, and as becomes 
the grandeur of a German Corps Staff, and the comfort 
of such high officers, German soldiers had laboured to make 
a pleasant dwelling-place for them. They had built a large 



THE BRITISH VICTORIES 107 

number of wooden bungalows, beautifully fitted up with 
cupboards and panels like summer-houses in a garden 
suburb. 

Each small house was provided with a dug-out, ap- 
proached from an indoor entrance, to which the German 
Staff officers might descend with dignity at the first dis- 
tant drone of an English aeroplane. And one officer, per- 
haps the corps commander, nervous of night bombing, as 
all men are, had made for himself a peculiar bed, in which 
he might sleep with less anxiety. It was built into the 
wall of one of these summer-houses, and surrounded by 
enormous beams of white wood, finely planed and polished 
and bevelled, which he could shut around him by means 
of hinges. There, thickly encoffined, he would be proof 
at least from bomb splinters and all but direct hits. This 
rustic camp in the wood was abandoned hurriedly by the 
German corps, when there were worse things to fear than 
night bombing raids, and was taken over for a time by the 
4th Bavarians until their headquarters staff fled, too, at 
the sound of the British field-guns coming near and nearer, 
and at the sight of wounded German soldiers staggering 
back from defeat in the fields nearby. 

Yesterday over all these places there were violent rain- 
storms, and our troops attacking Havrincourt and Tres- 
cault fought wet to the skin, and lay in watercourses and 
deep puddles. It hardly ceased raining all day with steady 
violence, and our aeroplanes were prevented from making 
successful flights. But this morning the sky cleared, with 
long stretches of blue between white cloud mountains, and 
the sun shone over the battlefields with a gay light, as one 
sees in some of Orpen's pictures, gilding the wet trunks of 
branchless trees, deepening the glowing redness of ruined 
houses with patches of blue sky through holes in their 
walls, glistening on the twisted strands of barbed wire, 
and revealing old, chalky parapets of trench lines with 
snowy whiteness. These places have a new kind of hor- 
ror when the sun is shining. It is all like Satan smiling 



108 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

at sin. There is a kind of mirthful mockery about this 
foul distortion of country and towns, where once there 
were pleasant homes and the sanity of life. And into all 
this scenery of war about Bapaume our men have come back 
again, with the queer pageant of their business, and only a 
few days after the departure of the enemy our horse-lines 
are established there, and our field-hospitals have hoisted 
the Red Cross flags, and our gun-wagons are parked in the 
mud flats, where the puddles look like pools of liquid gold. 
So our Army moves forward like a deep tide of men 
and beasts and machines, slopping over into places from 
which invisible barriers have been removed, and where 
there was solitude, or the hiding-place of men afraid of 
death, there is now a seething movement of life in war. 

September 15 
Since our capture of Havrincourt, Trescault, and Gouzeau- 
court by the 62nd Yorkshire Division, the Rifle Brigade, 
and the 60th Rifles, and the New Zealanders, followed by 
counter-attacks, which were repulsed, there has been no 
important infantry action, and the Germans have remained 
almost passive, except for violent gun-fire along this line. 
All day yesterday they poured on Havrincourt Chateau and 
Wood, and south of Gouzeaucourt Wood, with long-range 
guns ; they harassed our roads and camps with high-veloc- 
ity shells; our guns replied with at least equal intensity; 
and it is certain from the evidence of our forward observ- 
ing officers that many Germans were destroyed in their 
Hindenburg lines. Yesterday there was some bomb fight- 
ing down a trench that is dug up to Bilhem Farm, at the 
end of the spur which strikes out from Havrincourt, and 
it seems that the enemy has established a post here which 
is an important point of observation. By this time he may 
have lost it again. 

Up in our First Army there has also been heavy hostile 
shelling north and south of the Scarpe, and most intensely 
over Fosse, which we captured by a coup-de-main the day 



THE BRITISH VICTORIES 109 

before yesterday. I first saw that high, black slag-heap 
during the Battle of Loos in 191 5, when the Guards were 
fighting for it under a very frightful fire, so that, though 
they took it, they could not hold it, and the last time I saw 
it was from our trenches up at Hulluch, when, on a day like 
this, with a blue sky and bright sunlight, it shone like a hill 
of black diamonds against the white chalk of the trench 
parapets beyond. It means nothing to the world, but to 
the soldiers of ours who have lived close to that oblong 
hill of cinders from which the enemy could stare down into 
our lines it is a place of grim and horrible remembrance. 

Right down south, beyond Peronne and on the outskirts 
of St.-Quentin, the Australians are working forward a Ht- 
tle, but they are letting the enemy retire to the Hindenburg 
line in that part of the country more or less at his own 
leisure, knowing that he intends to get into that line of re- 
treat, and not wasting our men in hurrying him up for 
no good purpose. 

It is, as I have said, fine weather again, with just a first 
touch of autumn in the wind at night, but to-day warm and 
drowsy, with the sun on the yellowing leaves of the trees 
in the full glory of their foliage; the bells are ringing in 
the little French churches of villages behind the lines, and 
there seems to be a new note of gladness in them, because 
there is good news of the war where the Americans are 
fighting with the French, and there is not a peasant of 
France who is not hopeful that at last, after weary wait- 
ing and immense sacrifice and loneliness in fields from 
which their young manhood has gone, the good victory may 
come which shall bring peace again and their sons back to 
the farmsteads, and thrust back for ever from their fron- 
tiers the grey wolves who have destroyed so many fair 
things. It is the wistful hope of all the women and old 
people, but they guard themselves from disappointment by 
saying, as one old woman I knew said, 'We may want more 
patience yet." 



110 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

In our Army the men are glad of a short respite from 
fighting, for, in spite of all our recent victories and the 
light losses which we have recorded, truly enough the price 
of victory is always tragic — some good comrades have 
fallen in recent days — and the fatigue of battle is enor- 
mous and cannot be endured for ever. Sir Douglas Haig's 
mention, and the brief history of the divisions who have 
played a chief part in all this fighting, will gladden the 
men, because they are proud of their divisions, and like the 
world and their own folk at home to know what they have 
done. From time to time we have been allowed to mention 
some of these divisions — the glorious 51st of Highlanders, 
the 62nd Yorkshires, who have just captured Havrincourt 
after many other battles, the 63rd Naval Division, who took 
Queant and Pronville after triumphant progress from 
Logeast Wood to Le Barke, but never in so complete a list 
as now given by the Commander-in-Chief. 

Perhaps the numbers of divisions do not mean much to 
the world yet, but to us who have gone through these years 
of war in France each one of them has a fame of its own, 
associated with many of those ruined villages which lie 
in the wide tract of desolation through which our men have 
fought backwards and forwards in these years. We have 
seen them going into battle and coming out with weakened 
ranks. We have sat down in their battalion masses and 
looked for remembered faces and have not found them. 
We have passed them along the roads a thousand times, 
knowing them by the signs on their transport and by the 
look of them, and we have met them before defeat and 
before victory in their trenches and dug-outs, in observation 
posts looking to the German lines, and have had jokes and 
laughter with them, and heard strange tales from them, and 
seen something of their sufferings and their sacrifice in 
their worst days as well as in their best, and have recorded 
as well as may be their daily achievements. 

So such a number as the 56th Division means to us more 



THE BRITISH VICTORIES 111 

than a number. To me it means London men, men of 
my city, Kensingtons, and Queen's Westminsters, and Lon- 
don Rifle Brigade, and fellows who have a Cockney way 
of speech, a Cockney humour, and a city-bred imagination, 
which is not good for a man to have in war, because he 
suffers for it and fights on his nerves. They were not 
worse soldiers for that, perhaps better, because of an in- 
tellectual pride, and the 56th London, like the 47th Lon- 
don, the heroes of Loos — while they fought with the 15th 
Scottish— and last, but not least, the 58th London have 
proved their fighting quality all the way from Flanders to 
the Oise on many battle-grounds north and south of Arras. 

I met the 58th Londoners down by La Fere before March 
21 of evil memory, and they said, "When is this battle go- 
ing to begin?" It was strangely quiet then, but when it 
did begin, a few days later, the 58th were cut off below the 
German main thrust, and for some weeks were utterly iso- 
lated from the British Army and fought with the French 
and lived on French rations. One remembers many little 
things which fix the numbers of divisions in one's mind, 
and odd meetings and odd adventures with them. But gen- 
erally they recall some special battle, or some outstand- 
ing achievement, as for all time the 38th Welsh will be 
linked with the name of Mametz Wood and with the 
smashing of the German Cockchafers on the Pilkem Ridge, 
and now with their gallant exploit in wading through the 
foul waters of the Ancre and storming the heights of La 
Boiselle before their drive to Longueval and Delville Wood, 
where I saw them that day. 

The 52nd Lowland Division have not been so long with 
us as others on the Western Front. When they came first 
they were lean fellows, tanned by the sun of Egypt, and 
telling old tales of Gallipoli, where they suffered more, 
they say, than in any fighting since, though they fought hard 
the other day at Boyelles and Renin and with the naval 
men along the Hindenburg line. The 5th Division, with 



112 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

Devons and Kents and Cornwall Light Infantry, have a 
long history of heroism, which ended for a time on the 
Western Front when they left the mud swamps of Flan- 
ders to go to the sunshine of Italy. Now they are back 
again, and were here in time to call the enemy to a halt at 
Merville and fight back through the country around Ba- 
paume by Achiet-le-Petit and Irles and Fremicourt, with 
New Zealanders in comradeship. 

The old 3rd Division holds within its own records the 
history of this war since the autumn of 1914. They knew 
the days when our guns were very few, and in the Ypres 
salient the enemy strafed us by day and night, and we could 
hardly answer back. They knew what winter meant in 
water-logged trenches by St.-Eloi and the Bluff, up there 
beyond Ypres, and in the first battles of the Somme they 
lay outside Longueval and Bazetin under storms of fire, 
but drove the enemy down to Guillemont and made him fear 
them — those Suffolks, and East Yorkshires, and Gordons, 
and Royal Scots. Wherever there was hard fighting there 
the old 3rd was, and has been ever since, round Bethune 
and Arras, and up by Croisilles, and a few weeks ago 
through the village of Noreuil, which they captured by bit- 
ter fighting. 

It would take a volume, or rather many volumes, to 
narrate the history of all the divisions named by the Com- 
mander-in-Chief, the old British divisions of English, 
Scottish, Welsh, and Irish battalions — all too few Irish bat- 
talions — who throughout this war have been the solid back- 
bone of our Army, who, again and again, have fought 
themselves almost to a finish, until new drafts came along 
to learn the spirit of the older men, and who have planted 
a forest of graves, a forest of little white crosses, where 
their heroic dead lie over all these battlefields of France. 
They have not had much publicity. Often it has been 
necessary to hide the names of their battalions and divi- 
sions to prevent the enemy knowing our order of battle, 



THE BRITISH VICTORIES 113 

because they are in smaller units than the Australians and 
Canadians, who fight in corps and are quickly identified. 
That has been rough on them, and rough on the corre- 
spondents who want to give them their honour ; but when 
the full history of this war is written the names of their 
battalions will be in every chapter, and their glory, and 
agonies, and sacrifice, and courage will never be forgotten. 



PART VII 
THE BATTLE FOR CAMBRAI 

I 

Beyond Bourlon Wood 

September 30 
Our troops are gaining such brilliant successes all along 
the line that one can hardly keep pace with their progress. 
To-day, while our Second Army, with Allied forces, were 
striking between Armentieres and the coast, regaining 
Wytschaete and many old places for which our men fought 
long and hard a year ago, I went to another ridge above 
Bourlon village, ours only yesterday for the first time in 
history, looked into the city of Cambrai, and saw outspread 
our promised land where, if things go well, we may spend 
this winter beyond the belt of desolation now behind us. 
The five spires of Cambrai rose into the blue sky, and there 
was sun on the city roofs — whole roofs, it seemed, hardly 
touched by fire, so that they were strange and good to see 
after so many wanderings among places we call villages 
and towns where there are no roofs and no unbroken 
walls. 

The Canadians were almost at the gates of Cambrai when 
I went among them to-day, and where, across fields of 
thistles, lying low, because the enemy still had observation 
of us, I looked at the battle being fought. It was clear 
that our men were beyond the village of Raillencourt, just 
to the left of Cambrai, because the German guns were shell- 

115 



116 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

ing it fiercely, clouds of rosy smoke rising from its streets 
as the red-brick cottages were hit by high explosives. Later 
in the day I met some Tank crews who had just come back 
from an early morning adventure there. One Tank was 
commanded by a lance-corporal, and he and a bright boy 
with him, once in the cavalry, told how they cruised round 
the north side of the village and then worked down its 
streets. At the south end they came across belts of barbed 
wire and trampled them down, and then made straight for 
a machine-gun nest which was firing at them. They put 
it out of action with their heavy gun, and the German ma- 
chine-gunners fled from them. 

In all this battle since yesterday morning, when it began 
with such triumph, our Tanks have done splendid work. 
Not many of them were used, and some of those were vet- 
erans, who saw fighting in Flanders, but are still going 
strong. When the battle opened yesterday they crossed 
the Canal-du-Nord on bridges made under heavy fire by 
our engineers, and worked up to Bourlon Wood, where 
they trampled down machine-gun emplacements and did 
good service to the Canadian infantry. One Tank crossed 
a mined road, and the ground exploded under it, but only 
one man was wounded. To-day I saw other Tanks going 
into action, crawling up the road like long slugs as one saw 
them in the grey light of rainstorms. With gunners fol- 
lowing them and gun transport going forward in streams, 
and down the tracks on every side of them German pris- 
oners in small groups, and German wounded carrying down 
comrades on stretchers. An officer of the Tank Corps 
hailed us as we passed, and was in high spirits with the 
success of the two days' work. "They have been grand 
days for the Tanks," he said. "There were not many of 
us, but the old 'buses were gallant, and we have fairly put 
it across the Boche." 

There was a marvellous picture of open warfare to-day 
on the battlefields, and great painters should have been 
there to put down for all time the colour and movement 



THE BATTLE FOR CAMBRAI 117 

and sweep of it, though no painter could quite bring back 
to the senses the horror as well as the heroism of these 
scenes. For one walked past many horrors on the way of 
our advance, where German dead and ours lay as they fell 
in the fight for the canal crossings and upwards to Bourlon 
Wood. There were few of ours, but if one had any pity 
in one's heart it was moved by the sight of those field-grey 
men lying scattered there, terribly mangled by our fire, 
so that they had lost all look of humanity. And some 
horses lay about killed by the harassing fire of the German 
long-range guns yesterday or to-day, and the wind that 
blew over these fields was tainted with death. And yet, 
because of the victory, which is like wine to men's hearts, 
there were gaiety and laughter and high spirits among all 
our fighting men who moved through these scenes. In the 
forward lines up by Bourlon some of them were digging 
cubby holes in the ground to give themselves shelter from 
the wind and rain and shell-splinters, or making themselves 
at home in deep shell-craters. I talked with a group of 
gunner officers who were doing their own digging, and as 
they wielded their shovels they described how well they 
were going, and wanted all I could tell them in exchange 
about our latest progress north and south. For miles 
around there was a seething movement of men and horses 
and machines. Our artillery was on the move again in 
hundreds of batteries, and I saw our most advanced field- 
guns coming into action for the first time in these new po- 
sitions, and putting up a barrage for a new attack by our 
infantry to the left of Cambrai, which began when I was 
on the crest of Bourlon Wood. 

It was a fierce and widespread fire, and looking back- 
wards I could see all their gun-flashes winking and blink- 
ing above these fields of thistles, and overhead came the 
rush and clamour of their shells, with a shrill whistling 
and strange hissing noise, as they seemed to shave the crest 
of the hillside. Long-nosed 6o-pounders squat monsters 
like 15 inch and 9.2's were pounding away behind, and 



118 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

almost lifted the roof off one's head when one passed close. 
The enemy was replying only feebly. He seemed to be 
moving his guns back again, and into Bourlon Wood there 
only came shells from one big gun, clanking among under- 
growth, and over all our wide tract of newly captured 
ground on the other side of the Canal-du-Nord there was 
only harassing fire. 

I walked through Bourlon, where there had been bloody 
fighting. It is a red-brick village, and in old days of peace 
must have been a beauty-spot on that high hill as it nestled 
in the arms of the forest. It is all smashed now, but its 
white chateau has escaped total destruction, and still stands 
enough to show its architecture, like a mediaeval house, with 
a pointed turret. Here and there a group of little old 
houses and barns nestle in the deep foliage, looking undam- 
aged until one passes close, and in the north side of the 
wood there is a big red factory, with vast shell-holes 
through its walls. To-day, so soon after the capture of 
this place, London 'buses drove through Bourlon village 
to carry back our wounded, and that seemed to me a proof 
of victory which London people would like to know. 

All the ground that we have captured since yesterday is 
alive with the activity of men who to-day have gone much 
further, and who do not want to stop to-morrow; they 
are in a hurry to get ahead. They were jovial at finding 
themselves so far forward from their old camping grounds 
of the day before yesterday, but settled down for a brief 
spell in "bivvies" and holes. I saw a group of gunners 
who had just come up and were waiting for orders for a 
new barrage-fire, spread out a blanket and take their places 
for a game of cards. Two dead horses were a few yards 
away and other bodies were nearby, but these men paid 
no heed to the tragedy of the war — they know they must 
not — and settled down to a jolly game before they had to 
work again. 

Wherever I went to-day, through little woods and down 
sunken roads and through such smashed villages as Inchy 



THE BATTLE FOR CAMBRAI 119 

and Moeuvres, I passed German prisoners straggling back 
in small parties, led by a small Canadian escort or unac- 
companied. Through tall thistles and among shell-craters 
small processions of German stretcher-bearers walked 
slowly with their loads, followed by walking wounded with 
bandaged heads and bloody faces. Up to Friday evening 
the Canadian Corps had some 3000 prisoners in their hands, 
and to-day the number went up to over 4000, with over 100 
guns. The British divisions had taken 8000 in this Cam- 
brai battle in the same time, and we have all told up to 
Saturday afternoon more than 200 German guns. 

The plan of yesterday's battle was difficult to carry out, 
as I explained in my message yesterday, owing to the nar- 
row way by which our troops had to cross the Canal-du- 
Nord. The Canadians on the left, with our British nth 
Division north of them, had only 3000 yards in width for 
their first passage, but once across they fanned out to some 
9000 yards, with three divisions of Canadians, the ist, 3rd, 
and 4th, covering that front and passing through each other 
to further objectives north and south of Bourlon. The en- 
emy failed utterly to stop their crossing of the canal, and 
they did a most difficult military feat with a brilliant suc- 
cess and discipline which proves their long training and 
experience. 

Sunday 
Our progress all along the line, from the Arras-Cambrai 
road down to the neighbourhood of La Vacquerie, was 
continued yesterday with hard fighting opposite our Third 
Army front, and this morning our Fourth Army, south of 
that battle area, delivered an attack on a wide front, ex- 
tending the zone of conflict across the Canal-du-l'Escaut, 
north of St.-Quentin, and breaking through that part of 
the Hindenburg line, with its most formidable defences. 

This new attack began this morning in a dense fog. It 
was so thick that when I went up to Le Verguier and the 
ground which looked straight across the canal, I could not 



120 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

see the length of a gun-team ahead. The frost in the night 
was evaporated by the sun, which rose brightly above this 
ground-mist and made a thick haze, which was filled with 
the smoke of guns and the smoke-screens put up to hide the 
movements of our Tanks and infantry. It produced weird 
effects such as I have never seen in this war. Bodies of 
men were moving in close array, following up the first as- 
sault columns, but they could only be seen as through a 
glass darkly, and no man was visible twenty paces ahead. 
The gun transport and batteries moved up tracks towards 
the canal, crossing at Bellenglise, and, as the mist shifted 
for a moment, one saw them as ghost figures of men and 
beasts, and then a minute later they disappeared, and one 
seemed in utter loneliness except for the sound of wheels 
going over rough ground, and the tramp of horses' hoofs 
and the march of men. Everywhere, hidden in this fog, 
were guns. They were in the sunken road, and in folds 
of the fields, and out in the open country, and under cover 
of the woods. But one could see nothing of them, nor 
even the flash of them, but hear only their vast tumult 
of fire and the rush of their shells overhead. There was 
something very horrible in this darkness and noise. It was 
like an infernal nightmare, with hell let loose around one. 
It was impossible to know one's whereabouts or to gauge 
one's risks of hostile fire. 

There were hundreds of guns firing on this southern 
front. They had been firing this morning when the at- 
tack began for forty-eight hours without cessation, and 
for ten hours our gunners fired gas shells over the Ger- 
man lines, so that we must have spread a zone of death 
over a wide territory. A thousand rounds of that gas 
shell were flung over the German batteries and assembly 
places. Then the assault began with a few minutes' hur- 
ricane bombardment before infantry moved forward be- 
hind a creeping barrage. A hundred Tanks or so had gone 
far forward in the night, hiding themselves until they 
crawled out at the first glimpse of light to-day, and with 



THE BATTLE FOR CAMBRAI 121 

the infantry made for the Canal de I'Escaut, or Scheldt, 
as we call it, which is sixty yards wide where it goes above- 
ground. To cross it would be a military feat as great as 
anything in the history of the war, more difficult even than 
crossing the Canal-du-Nord, which our men did on Friday 
morning last. For five kilometres north of Bellicourt the 
canal goes underground, but this was defended by the Hin- 
denburg line with immense belts of wire and deep, wide 
trenches and a network of earthworks. 

On the extreme right of our line English divisions — 
South Midland, with the ist and 6th Divisions from left 
to right — set out to gain the crossings by Bellenglise, and to 
build bridges to carry Tanks and guns. The enemy knew 
our attack was imminent. We had warned him by all our 
fire. To check it he fired heavily back last night, and this 
morning, especially in Ascension Valley, but this shelling 
was powerless to break our plans, and the German gun- 
power was feeble compared with our terrific bombardment 
which opened on him this morning with hurricane fire 
after those two days of steady slogging. Through the 
white fog went our men and our Tanks, and at 7.25, not 
much more than an hour after the attack began, it was 
reported back to their headquarters that they had secured 
the crossing, and were well on the other side of the canal, 
with many prisoners in the hands of the South Midland 
men.- Some of our men say that they actually swam the 
canal under cover of the fog, and in ice-cold water. The 
main Hindenburg line on this sector was broken through, 
and our troops are so much past it at many points that 
it is now only of ironical memory, and the enemy must rely 
on mythical lines to hide hi^ fears and his defeat. 

I saw many batches of prisoners coming back from the 
canal banks with wet chalk on their uniforms, but chalk 
no whiter than the faces of these men, who had been un- 
der two days' bombardment, and had been almost mad- 
dened by it, or at least stunned and dazed. Our Enp-iJsh 
Tommies, grouped round their forward cages, all vagnx^ 



122 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

in mist, shouted out questions to the prisoners as they came 
up, and made cheery remarks to them as though to ease 
them of their fears. It was a queer scene, in the midst of 
fog, and more fantastic than anything I have seen on the 
days of battle. 

North of our 9th Corps on the right of the attack, Aus- 
tralians and Americans stormed the canal, where a thou- 
sand yards were above ground on their front, and a thou- 
sand yards below north and south of Bellicourt. Their left 
boundary was just below Vendheuile, where other English 
troops formed a flank and tried to bridge the canal. The 
line in front of the American-Australian front was terrific 
in its original strength, for besides the wide canal there 
was a great belt of wire and many trenches. However, 
this morning the wire had been w^ell cut by our guns, and 
Tanks were with our men to force the passage beyond and 
kept down machine-gun fire, if they could get across. They 
went across by the marvellous valour of our men, who 
established their bridges in spite of the heavy German 
barrage. This, by good luck, fell mostly behind them, and 
a few of our wounded were hurt in their desperate eager- 
ness to keep close to our own barrage-fire, the Americans 
being less experienced in this than the Australians, who 
are mostly veterans. Notwithstanding our annihilating 
bombardment, there w^as fierce machine-gun fire from the 
enemy, and our troops had hard going at first, but then 
broke down all resistance, and, having passed to the other 
side of the canal, went ahead, with Tanks round Bony and 
Bellicourt, where they had their worst fighting, and towards 
the next organized line of German resistance, known as the 
Masnieres-Beaurevoir line. Prisoners taken on our side 
of this say that up to that time this line was not manned, 
but observers report a rapid movement of German trains 
westward, showing that the enemy are rushing up rein- 
forcements to hold this position, where probably a battle 
will be fought. Once through that line we are out in the 
open country, and anything may happen then. Further 



THE BATTLE FOR CAMBRAI 123 

north still other English troops were advancing upon the 
Gouzeaucourt-Masnieres road by way of La Vacquerie, 
where there was such desperate fighting last November. 
It was strongly held again, and stubbornly defended, but 
out men broke into the sunken road north and south of 
it, and pinched it out, and over a thousand prisoners were 
taken this morning on that front. 

New Zealanders passed through Lancashire troops, and 
fanned out in a wide patrol, moving forward and driving 
the enemy before them. Gouzeaucourt and Villers-Guislan 
below them were taken this morning by English divisions, 
who advanced over Welsh ridge, from which they had been 
driven back yesterday. They went through the two vil- 
lages without encountering much opposition, the enemy 
having fled except for a small group of panic-stricken men, 
and they then advanced on the strong position of Gon- 
nelieu, where they had very bitter fighting and were held 
up by savage machine-gun fire. They fell back a little in 
order to wait for Tanks to destroy those machine-gun 
nests, and it is reported that things have gone in our fa- 
vour in that neighbourhood. 

Following the battle still northwards, our 6th Corps was 
heavily engaged to-day round Masnieres and Lateau Wood, 
where, in the Cambrai salient last November, our 29th Di- 
vision — Guernseys, and Middlesex, and Royal Fusiliers — 
fought to the death. Once again the outskirts of Mas- 
nieres became a German shambles, and in that alleyway 
of ruined houses called Les Rues Vertes English troops 
fought with great determination and broke the enemy. 
Meanwhile our 63rd Naval Division, who have been fight- 
ing so long and so hard since their capture of Queant and 
Pronville many days ago, now stormed the German de- 
fences round Lateau Wood, which is now in their hands. 
Our 6th Corps have counted 4000 prisoners since Friday 
morning. The regiment of Yorkshiremen who captured 
Marcoing, and one of their battalions, the 5th, Duke of 
Wellington's, forced the passage of the Canal-de-Lescaut 



124 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

in this neighbourhood by very glorious courage under heavy 
fire. Other divisions cleared the west bank of the canal 
as far north as La Folic Wood, and are reported to have 
captured the village of the Noyelles, where they had to sus- 
tain fierce counter-attacks. West of Marcoing our brave 
old 3rd Division, on the right of the Guards, went through 
the Hindenburg support line and worked forward on Fri- 
day and Saturday from Flesquieres Ridge and took a rec- 
ord number of prisoners for one division in this battle. 

The Guards themselves fought according to their old 
traditions, and have done great work in smashing through 
their part of the Hindenburg line, pressing on to Orival 
Wood and Primy Chapel, and clearing the Bapaume-Cam- 
brai road. On the left of the attack the Canadians and the 
nth English Division are still advancing north of Cambrai 
and putting that city within their grip by an encircling 
movement. After their wonderful passage of the Canal- 
du-Nord.on Friday morning between Mceuvres and Inchy 
they fought and beat many battalions of German divisions 
who had intended to attack them, as I mentioned in my 
message yesterday, and now came against them in desper- 
ate counter-attacks. The 187th German Division and the 
7th Cavalry Division had been ordered to take back the 
line of the canal, and the Canadians went right through 
them and took prisoners of all their battalions. Then 
they came in touch with the 12th German Division and part 
of the 58th, who had been thrown in to attack Bourlon, 
and were broken by the Canadians before they knew they 
were so close. 

There was hard fighting yesterday round the villages of 
Raillencourt and Sailly, where, as I have described in an- 
other message, I saw the enemy pouring shell-fire into the 
streets. It was here that the enemy established himself 
in a line of trenches guarded by belts of wire, which were 
broken down by our Tanks, as I was told by their crews, 
whom I met near Bourlon Wood. Canadians made a gap 
through this line and went through. To-day they are now 



THE BATTLE FOR CAMBRAI 125 

swinging well north of Cambrai through the village of 
Blecourt, north of Thilloy, and towards Ramillies; and for 
any Germans left in Cambrai there is no hope but a quick 
escape. Some of them have already escaped with as much 
booty as they can take, judging from what I saw yester- 
day as I looked down into the city from ground north of 
Bourlon Wood. Out of Cambrai came a German train. 
It was a train in a hurry, and with full steam up and white 
smoke trailing far behind raced away to the hinterland, 
where there is more safety for German staff officers. 

This is only a bare outline of the great battle which has 
already been decided in our favour and has given us thou- 
sands of prisoners, many guns, and the Hindenburg line 
for many miles. Of all the human element I can say only 
a few words, though I should like to write about the cour- 
age and splendour of all our men, who have the spirit of 
victory in their hearts and are taking all risks and daring 
everything with an eager desire to press on and on. It is 
a mighty labour, for fighting is hard work all the time, and 
not joyous excitement, as some folks think. It is the surge 
and struggle forward of hundreds of thousands of men 
down narrow ways choked with traffic, over fields under 
fire, through ruined villages, into which shells are falling, 
or where they may fall at any second. It is the labour of 
moving guns over rough ground with mules and horses 
which have been going many days so that some of them 
drop dead, and there is a trail of dead horses, of whom 
some have been killed by shrapnel and some by shells and 
some by bombs. It is the labour of armies of men making 
roads through ground just captured, and pushing out rail- 
way lines into deeper desolation. It is the labour of engi- 
neers and pioneers making the way of the Army straight, 
and, lastly, it is the labour of gunners and infantry hungry 
for want of sleep, but not sleeping; disgusted with their 
dirtiness, but unable to wash; firing their guns until they 
are red-hot, then moving to fire on new targets, and, if 
they are infantry, marching, marching, marching in support 



Ue THE WAY TO VICTORY 

of those in front, and passing through them to new attacks; 
resisting counter-attacks when they have won a battle, hav- 
ing no chance of rest until they, in turn, are ''leap-frogged" 
by comrades coming up behind. The gunner officers are 
hoarse wnth shouting orders and haggard from lack of 
sleep. The infantry officers snatch sleep, if they can, in 
any ditch or behind any broken wall while shells are burst- 
ing very close and their men are digging a little cover be- 
fore the next advance. It is superhuman effort of physical 
strength and will-power, but throughout our armies, as I 
have seen them during the last three days, there is a grim 
sense of getting the enemy on the run and smashing him 
so beyond recovery that ever after this he will have to go 
back and back before us until he is cleared out of Belgium 
and France. 

The news from the north is astounding and good. The 
Belgians are reported to have Dixmude — that Dixmude 
which I saw in flames four years ago and entered on a day 
of tragedy. We have the Flanders ridges again and thou- 
sands of prisoners who held them, and, after all, that 
bloody fighting of last year from Ypres to Passchendaele 
has not been made vain by the loss of all that ground, but 
is ours after a brief tenure by the enemy. In this last 
three days, most successful in all these years of war, we 
have struck the enemy a smashing and decisive blow from 
the sea to St.-Quentin, and his Hindenburg line is now a 
farce — a farce and a tragedy which will shock the people 
of Germany to their hearts, because it breaks their last hope 
of safety. They know they are beaten. In every cage 
there are many officers, some of them of high rank, like 
one I saw yesterday, who was the commander of a German 
cavalry regiment taken by the Canadians. He praised our 
leadership and our men's fighting quality, and was very 
polite and humble — new cjualities of German officers who 
come into our hands. Those I saw to-day, fresh from the 
Hindenburg line across the canal by St.-Quentin, saluted as 
men who raise their hands to the victors. 



THE BATTLE FOR CAMBRAI 127 

To-day's battle, fought in a fog, made news difficult to 
get by our Army commanders. Our airmen were out be- 
fore the dawn, or just after dawn, as I saw them winding 
up to go, but they could see nothing for several hours 
through that dense ground haze, though the sky was blue 
above them. But afterwards, when the mist lifted like a 
curtain, revealing all the drama of battle, they flew low 
and swooped over our infantry to read their signals, and 
then came back with good tidings. One of them came to 
a corps headquarters and dropped his message just out- 
side the hut of the General Staff officers, who were hungry 
for his news. The sky this morning was crowded with 
these scouts of ours, like midges on a summer day, and 
before the fog had cleared it was strange to hear their en- 
gines singing up there above the darkness on earth. When 
the sun rose and lifted that curtain of mist, flooding all 
the fields with golden light, a French officer with me raised 
his hand, smiled, and said in a voice of emotion, 'The sun 
of Austerlitz, the herald of great victory." It has indeed 
been a day of victory, and we should be thankful to the 
men — those English and Canadian, Australian, New 
Zealand, and American troops — who have by enormous 
courage and enduring fatigue, gained this new success for 
the world, bringing nearer a vision of all good things when 
there shall be an end of this. 



II 

The End of the Hindenburg Line 

October i 
There was wild weather last night, with a gale of wind 
blowing and heavy rainstorms over the battlefields. I was 
in a place where there are many ruined houses, and as the 
wind howled there were crashes when bits of masonry fell 
into the streets. It was bitterly cold to our brave troops, 



128 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

and this morning some of them I met had chattering teeth 
after a night without sleep. But they endure these dis- 
comforts bravely, and the vision of victory keeps them 
warm in soul, if not in body. 

"My men," said an officer of our 3rd Division to-day, 
''keep asking me when they are going on again. That is 
their one thought." Yet these men of the "Iron Division," 
as it is called, because of their great history in this war, 
have been fighting a long time, in our retreat and in our 
advance, and were many days in the line before their new 
attack last Friday, their most glorious day when they took 
as many prisoners as a corps would be proud to take on 
one day, and went straight through the Hindenburg sup- 
port line to the left of Havrincourt. 

North-country troops and Royal Fusiliers stormed the 
Hindenburg trenches, and after hard fighting ail the way 
with troops of the 20th and 6th German Divisions, their 
best troops in this sector, captured the village of Ribecourt 
on their final objective. Scottish and Shropshire men 
worked on the left, and smashed their way through the 
most formidable trench systems with the aid of Tanks, 
whose pilots and crews did gallant service, and were then 
"leap-frogged" by North and East Country troops of this 
same old division, who went through Flesquieres village. 
They took three German battalion commanders among that- 
vast crowd of men, whom they bundled back behind our 
lines. The Guards were on their left, and the Guards 
and the 3rd Division together can take anything with any 
luck. 

The depth of the German defence, without these bat- 
talions supporting each other, showed that the enemy in- 
tended to hold this part of the Hindenburg line at all costs ; 
but that intention failed, with a crushing defeat. Round 
Cambrai to-day and last night, after my message yesterday, 
there was very hard fighting, and the enemy's resistance 
has been stiffened by rushing up local reserves, although 
while those are broken there can be very little behind and 



THE BATTLE FOR CAMBRAI 129 

between our troops and the open country. But for the time 
being their defence is strong and hard, maintained almost 
wholly by dense machine-gun fire against our nth Eng- 
lish Division and the ist, 4th, and 3rd Canadian Divisions, 
who have been making their way stubbornly round the 
north side of Cambrai. 

For a time yesterday the German counter-attacks made 
the Canadians withdraw a Httle from St.-Olle, on the out- 
skirts of the city, and from the ground near Blecourt and 
Tilloy on the north, but the ist Canadians have taken the 
strongly wired trench line west of the Douai-Cambrai road, 
in spite of fierce machine-gunning, and are making further 
attacks to-day, which have already given them ground about 
Blecourt, while the 3rd and 4th Canadians are reported as 
fighting at Tilloy. The enemy is resisting fiercely on the 
railway embankment which goes northwards outside Cam- 
brai. 

These battles to-day were preceded by heavy concentra- 
tions of gun-fire from our batteries sweeping the ground 
on this side of the Scheldt Canal, behind which Cambrai 
stands, and when I was below Bourlon Wood this morn- 
ing — very grim and black there under the rain-swept sky 
— I saw all these guns of ours open fire, and the flashes 
made a line of flame between the long slopes of the coun- 
try here. There was hardly any hostile shell-fire near 
Cambrai, and the city, with its tall spires, seemed to be 
isolated from the battle-zone which swept about it. 

As I went up this way to-day I met those processions of 
men who are human and speaking proofs of our progress 
and success. They were German prisoners, and down one 
road came nearly a thousand of them, marching as one 
battalion — victims of yesterday's tragedy to Germany. 
Their numbers are staggering to the imagination during 
these last few days, and two young friends of mine whose 
duty it is to bring some of them by train to the central col- 
lecting station have had their hands full. On one day one 



130 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

of them brought down a large number, and his friend was 
responsible for 1600, and every day for three days they 
have entrained the same numbers. 

For the most part they give no trouble at all, but on one 
of these train journeys there was a fierce fight among them- 
selves in one of the trucks, and there are bitter argu- 
ments among the men as to the reason of their debacle. 
Their spirit is breaking. All that I have said recently 
about the deterioration of German moral, the partial crack- 
ing of their discipline and war machine, is borne out by 
German orders captured by the English and Canadian 
troops. One of them, issued before the beginning of our 
battle last Friday morning, stated that the Hindenburg 
line was their winter position, and that not a foot of ground 
must be lost. That proves the absolute intention of the 
German command to hold out on this line, and the great- 
ness of the defeat that has come to them. But other or- 
ders reveal dismay at the state of mind among their sol- 
diers, and that is our best knowledge. In one issued to the 
187th Division, which the Canadians have met and shat- 
tered, it says that: 

"The moral and discipline of our men have plainly de- 
creased, owing in the first place to the system of elastic de- 
fence, which leads the men to believe that ground is of no 
value; and, secondly, to the lack of control and example 
among the officers. There is also a lack of personality 
among men shown by unnecessary retirements, the general 
conduct of men on leave, and riots such as those in Cam- 
brai, where officers joined in the same crimes as the men, 
similar to those of which we accused the Russians." 

In another order, issued three days ago by the Chief of 
Staff of the 17th German Army, it says that: 

^'Holding positions lightly leads to failure and discour- 
agement of troops, and this feeling grows as the thinness 
of our garrisons increases. Unfortunately in addition the 
moral of our men has decreased considerably." 



THE BATTLE FOR CAMBRAI ISl 

Later 
One of the German surprises yesterday was to meet Amer- 
ican troops in the attack against them on our front. It 
was no surprise to some of us, who had seen them moving 
up day by day nearer to the fighting zone, so that, as we 
passed them, we said to each other : "These men are out 
for business, and, by jove, how well they look." These two 
divisions, with men of New York State and North and 
South Carolina and Tennessee, were quartered in shell- 
broken villages full of history made by English troops dur- 
ing these four years of war, so that every ruined cottage 
in them is scrawled over with English and Scottish names. 
The Americans had come newly to these places, and they 
had the look of new men, so fresh, so keen, so unscarred 
by the tragedy of war, which leaves its imprint on men's 
faces and gives them a certain look in the eyes not to be mis- 
taken. They looked very young, many of these American 
boys, but hard and fit, and I watched them putting up their 
camps and their "pup tents," and going up with their guns 
and transport to the edge of the battlefield. They drew 
nearer, and went further into our stricken land among 
shell-craters and all the wreckage of human life. 

Then on the first day of this new battle yesterday I saw 
some of them coming down with their prisoners, escorting 
them proudly and smiling back to our Tommies, who said, 
"Well done, Yanks! That's a good beginning. Keep it 
up." They came marching through the white fog which 
veiled everything yesterday morning, and I saw their stafY 
officers driving up sinister roads this side of the Scheldt 
Canal, and American guns and transport threading their 
way through our streams of traffic. They were keen to 
attack, full of confidence and enthusiasm because they be- 
lieved they would do well and help in a day of big victory, 
and they led the assault on one sector of the canal by Belli- 
court, where the Australians were to pass through them to 
an extension of the attack later in the day. They went 
away rapidly, stormed through the German lines, secured 



132 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

the canal crossings, and struck on towards Gouy and 
Nauroy, and the only fault to find with them, the only 
laughing criticism from veterans in our ranks, was that 
they set the pace too hard and were too eager to get for- 
ward. That is a fault on the right side, the gift of the 
freshers in this hard old university of Vv^ar, where men 
learn to be cautious of possible snags and make very sure 
of the ground behind them before they trudge on again. 
Their courage yesterday was magnificent, and they went 
straight into deadly risks without shirking the hazard. 
They have done and learnt enough in one day to call them- 
selves veterans, for a battle like this crowds much into few 
hours. One cannot distinguish between the troops in cour- 
age and in audacious endeavour, for yesterday the whole 
Allied line swept forward with marvellous valour. It was 
one of our big days, and a battle which may have far-reach- 
ing results. 

One of the finest episodes beyond all doubt was the cross- 
ing of the canal by those Midland men of the 46th Di- 
vision, Leicesters, and Staffords, and others, whom I first 
met years ago near Armentieres. They had to get across 
the Scheldt Canal by Bellenglise, where it is eighteen yards 
wide and very deep. German guns were trained upon it, 
and its banks bristled with machine-guns, and its bridges 
were mined. But the Midland men went down to that 
gully of death, went down in the thick white fog through 
which there was a frightful tumult of guns, as I heard them 
in the darkness, and through which howled German shells 
searching for their bodies, and the long tattoo of machine- 
guns and the swish of thousands of bullets. With lifebelts 
round their tunics and with small rafts and ladders and 
sections of wooden bridges they wxnt down to the edge of 
the canal, not knowing what comrades fell, not pausing. 
Some of the men went down the chalky banks and plunged 
into the ice-cold water and swam across under fire, and some 
used their rafts and built their bridges. The Midland men 
of the 46th streamed across, and Tanks went with them 



THE BATTLE FOR CAMBRAI 13S 

to their side of the canal, and in an hour or two, or less, 
the strongest system of defence on the Western Front had 
been broken and carried, and the Hindenburg line had been 
made a byword for ever, and the barrier upon which all 
German hopes were built was behind our lines, with our 
men away beyond it. The 46th Division, fanning out as 
they went over the whole corps front, took over 4000 pris- 
oners and a large number of guns, and as they went into 
hostile ground and fought those who preferred to fight, 
they saw the result of the forty-eight hours of bombard- 
ment which had gone before their advance, and it was an 
appalling sight, because of the number of dead who lay 
everywhere. 

Between Bellicourt and Gonnelieu there has been severe 
fighting against other troops, including Australians and 
Americans, and between Bony and Villers-Guislain des- 
perate counter-attacks by the enemy pressed back our troops 
to the western outskirts of those villages. It is the fighting 
of men who know that the fate of their Fatherland is at 
stake, and whose moral is not so broken that they cannot 
rise here and there to very brave resistance. Let us be 
fair to our enemy now that we are beginning to have him 
down, and acknowledge what I have said a thousand times, 
that in spite of many bad qualities he has great cour- 
age. If that were not so, it would be no honour to our 
men to beat him, and his loss of moral comes only when 
after four years of war he sees his doom near. 

I can write very little of the amazing things in the north, 
for all I know is hearsay, and even that I have not time to 
tell to-day. But I must write a few words as a tribute to 
the Belgians, who have come into their own again, and 
after four years are attacking again as once I saw them 
fight on the banks of the Yser Canal in the autumn of 
1 9 14, when day by day they had many dead and wounded, 
but held their line. With astonishing speed on the first 
morning of their attack they drove straight through 
Houthulst Forest, and took over 200 guns and 5000 pris- 



134 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

oners. I am told that the German Landwehr fought hard 
and well against them, but could not check the pace of the 
Belgian advance, which has carried them to within three 
kilometres of Roulers. Belgian and British cavalry are 
spreading out over a wide tract of country in far patrols. 
And there is a report that the Germans are evacuating 
Comines. Our troops, including English, Irish, and Scot- 
tish battalions, have made quick progress from Armen- 
tieres northwards, swinging round the Messines Ridge with 
other troops pushing forward on the extreme left to Adi- 
zeele, now in their hands. These troops of ours on the 
right of the Belgians have taken 3600 prisoners and over 
100 guns. 

October 2 
Violent rain again fell last night, making our battlefield 
very soft and muddy for troops and transport, especially, 
I hear, in Flanders, vv^here our Second Army is still mak- 
ing good progress in spite of this trouble, which handi- 
capped us so frightfully last year. On the Cambrai bat- 
tle-front the ground is not so bad, but, as I can witness 
from personal experience to-day, the roads and tracks are 
deep in mud, so that all our seething traffic of men and 
guns and material of war is a slow-moving tide. After a 
stormy night, however, the sky cleared, and to-day there 
is a cloudless blue sky, with far visibility under the splen- 
did sunshine of this first of October, when autumn begins, 
and the trees of Havrincourt Wood and grim old Bourlon 
Wood are hung with russet foliage, all tattered by shell- 
fire. 

It is on this front by Cambrai that one of the decisive 
battles of the war — I think it may be the decisive battle — 
is being fought. The enemy is putting in all the strength 
he has to defend this line round Cambrai, fearing that if 
the English and Canadian spearhead drives deeper above 
and below that city he may be forced to a full retreat in 
the open plains, and that all his defensive position may be 



THE BATTLE FOR CAMBRAI 135 

turned. From a German map captured by the Canadians 
we know that he takes this view, and it is proved also by 
the number of divisions he has now put into this part of 
the battle-hne, and by the orders given them to defend their 
ground to the death. The Canadian Corps were to-day 
fightinsr eig^ht German divisions. And in addition the en- 
emy here have machine-gun detachments from the 7th Ger- 
man Cavalry and the 207th Divisions. After reinforcing 
their defence by the 12th Division, they have now brought 
up the 1 2th Reserve Division, and all of them are fighting 
hard with most desperate courage. 

On the west side of the Canal-de-l'Escaut, which swings 
in a close loop around Cambrai, the Canadians have been 
having a hard and fierce battle, which is still in progress, 
and going in our favour, though not easily nor without 
cost. Yesterday, under intense German fire from many 
guns and savage machine-gunning, the Canadians had to 
draw back again from Blecourt and Abancourt, north of 
the city, and it was decided by the Canadian command to 
cease all efforts in this direction until more guns were in 
position to provide a heavier barrage, behind which their 
troops could make a stronger advance on the whole corps' 
front. This was done, and this morning, at five o'clock, 
after complete reorganization of the artillery and infan- 
try dispositions, not an easy task in the darkness and slash- 
ing rain, the new battle began. 

Our barrage-fire was intense and murderous, and the 
enemy replied by a line of fire that was also very fierce. 
Five minutes after our guns opened their hurricane bom- 
bardment with a creeping barrage for our men to follow. 
The Canadians advanced with the finest courage, and, in 
spite of this shelling, and intense machine-gunning at closer 
range, were not baulked of their main purpose. The 3rd 
Canadian Division, on the right, did all that its men had 
been asked to achieve, but on the left the troops were held 
up for a time by a terrible artillery concentration. The 4th 
Canadian Division have had severe fighting round Cuvillers 



136 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

and Bantigny, but are securing their positions in that neigh- 
bourhood, but the I St Canadians apparently entered Aban- 
court, but had to fall back temporarily owing to the girdle 
of high explosives which barred their way. The village 
of Thilloy, due north of Cambrai, seems to be in our hands. 
On the left of the Canadians EngHsh troops of the nth 
Division this morning have made progress beyond Fressies, 
just above Abancourt. The battle is being fought in this 
evening sunlight out there, which is golden over all those 
fields of strife, and until nightfall we shall not know the 
full measure of the day's success, but even now it seems 
to me certain that the German defences of Cambrai are 
being broken down by the stubborn effort of our men, 
fighting against great odds but beating them. The Ger- 
mans fear that Cambrai will be lost to them, and only a few 
moments before I wrote my last words in this message 
news was brought to me that they are burning the city. 
There was no fire rising from it this morning when I caught 
a glimpse of its spires and roofs, nor yesterday, when I 
saw it quite tranquil in the midst of the battle-zone, and 
then I believed that it would fall into our hands almost un- 
scathed by the war. It seemed to me probable that the 
enemy would not destroy it when he had to leave, knowing 
now that he is losing this war, and that it would pay him 
to leave as many towns intact as possible on the wake of his 
retreat, lest he should incur retribution at the hands of those 
who will have power over him. But he does not learn. 
There is something in his character that does not let him 
learn, and the fires that are now in Cambrai, that old, fair 
city, crowded with historical memories of France, prove 
once again that in retreat, as well as in advance, the enemy 
is ruthless, and will lay waste the ground behind him. No 
words that I can write will alter his purpose, but, for what 
it is worth, I w^arn him that such acts as this, coming after 
all his destruction through which, day after day, we pass, 
as through a land of ancient ruin dead since a thousand 
years ago, will be punished. 



THE BATTLE FOR CAMBRAI 137 

It is proof of victory when the Canadian Corps alone, 
with our two English divisions working with them, have 
captured since the beginning of their advance in August 
450 guns and 27,000 prisoners. In this one battle, begin- 
ning last Friday, they have captured 150 guns. And the 
corps further south, our 6th Corps, has in less time than 
that taken prisoners 376 German officers and 14,089 men. 
It is this 6th Corps, commanded by General Haldane, which 
is fighting south of Cambrai, where, as I wrote in my mes- 
sage yesterday, our Guards and 2nd Division, with the 
62nd Yorkshire Division and our *'Iron" Division — the old 
3rd — have fought so long and so doggedly in all these bat- 
tles between Bapaume and Marcoing. While the Cana- 
dians are fighting on the north of Cambrai these others are 
drawing closer on the south of the city and smashing the 
last German defences there across the canal, along the 
Masnieres-Beaurevoir line, and in the neighbourhood of 
Rumilly, which is their strong point of resistance. It was 
the leading brigade of Yorkshires of the 62nd Division 
which took Marcoing last Sunday, when, at the end of a 
hard day's battle, the Duke of Wellington battalions, with 
amazing dash, worked forward and seized the salient east 
of Marcoing. 

Our 2nd Division did brave work in gaining the bridge- 
head across the canal east of Noyelles, where the cutting is 
deep and wide, with shelving banks bricked up, so that it 
is a terrible place to cross under fire. The enemy kept it 
under fire and had observation of our men from a high 
mound south of Cambrai called Mont-sur-l'CEuvres (the 
"Mound above the Works"). This knoll is a commanding 
position in this neighbourhood, and as long as the enemy 
held that it was difficult to attack or hold the village of 
Rumilly, south-east of it above Masnieres. Yesterday the 
Yorkshires of the 62nd Division made two attacks upon 
Rumilly, where last November in the first Cambrai fighting 
there was a race between German infantry and ours, and 
because the Germans were first to the line our cavalry could 



138 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

not pass through. Once again Rumilly proved hard to 
take, and the Yorkshire attacks failed to make much prog- 
ress because of the ''Mound above the Works," from which 
the German machine-gunners directed their fire. Their 
comrades on the right of them were able to advance above 
Crevecoeur, which was being attacked by New-Zealanders, 
and swung forward into the sunken road which strikes 
straight up from Crevecoeur across a spur of ground thrust 
forward above that village. But their flank was threat- 
ened owing to the enemy still being in Rumilly, and this 
morning, much against their will, they were drawn back in 
order to make room for a creeping barrage, behind which 
the New-Zealanders were going to attack Crevecoeur and 
this ground again, while the 2nd Division on the left rushed 
the ''Mound above the Works," and others drove through 
Rumilly itself. 

This was the tactical arrangement of battle this morn- 
ing and all our troops made good progress and broke down 
the first German resistance. Against them they had the 
3rd German Naval Division, who are fighting courageously. 
If we gain this line of German defence- and hold it against 
local counter-attacks while the Canadians on the north of 
Cambrai drive their spearhead just a little deeper the Ger- 
mans wall be in a tragic plight, and their retreat here seems 
certain. Whether they will stop, except for rear-guard 
actions, is diflicult for us to say, and more difficult for 
them, for the barrier they have built against us, and be- 
lieved they would hold intact, has already been breached, 
their Hindenburg line is full of holes, through which our 
men have poured, and, like a tide, our Army will move 
after them as it is now moving, slowly, but with a steady 
and fearful weight. 

On our right, where the Australians and Americans were 
fighting across the canal on Sunday beyond Bellicourt and 
Bellenglise, there was a new attack to-day to consolidate 
and improve the gains made on Sunday and Monday, when 
luck was not altogether ours, and the stubborn resistance 



THE BATTLE FOR CAMBRAI 139 

of the enemy in some of his old trench systems, where he 
held out after the beginning of our advance, created for a 
time a different situation. The enemy was able to hold 
on to the village of Bony, towards which the Australians 
tried to bomb their way, and were also strong in Gouy, 
tow^ards which the Americans had gone forward with such 
enthusiasm and rapidity, meeting a terrible machine-gun 
fire on their way with hidden machine-gun nests all about 
them. This morning the battle began again, and the Aus- 
tralians attacked in a more northerly direction towards 
Estrees, Joncourt, and Levergies. They also drove up 
towards Gouy from the south. The first results are good, 
and the Australians are reported to have captured Estrees 
and Joncourt and the high crest known as Mill Ridge, be- 
tween Bony and Estrees, so that they seem to be in a splen- 
did position for further progress, and have put the enemy 
into extreme danger. The Australians had taken 2000 
prisoners in the operation last Sunday, and this morning 
they must have increased that number by many more, be- 
cause the Germans were holding all this ground strongly, 
with close reserves. They have fought stubbornly, espe- 
cially between Nauroy and Estrees, and the Australians 
had a hard fight at the point known as Camp Signal sta- 
tion, in this neighbourhood. 

The enemy's losses have been severe, and have drained 
his Divisions so that they are much below strength, and 
some of their units hardly exist. An officer of the 2nd 
Prussian Guard, who came over to our lines, said his own 
regiment was down to a strength of four companies, and 
he had advised his men to surrender to us if hard pressed. 

To-day is a critical one in this Battle of Cambrai. Our 
heroic men, tired with long fighting, and weakened by in- 
evitable losses during the past eight wxeks, are still keen to 
follow. up their pursuit of the enemy, so that he shall not 
have time to rest and refresh and grow strong again, and 
they are eager to smash his defences, so that he shall be 
forced into a last long retreat which will end only with 



140 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

the ending of the war — that is our men's hope and purpose 
— and if to-day and to-morrow they can beat him where 
he now stands, there is no prepared inch where the Ger- 
man army may stand, because we have driven him out of 
his last continuous defences, organized as unbreakable po- 
sitions. The officers I have seen to-day directing this 
battle, and others seen by my fellow war correspondents, 
are hopeful and confident, and it is their belief that their 
men will deliver this death-blow to the hopes of the Ger- 
man High Command. 

There are great scenes on our roads and over the newly 
captured fields below Bourlon Wood. Our supporting 
troops are marching forwards with their bands playing 
them up, and the golden sunlight of this day gleams upon 
long columns of men in steel helmets swinging up to the 
lines, and for miles up the wet tracks there are tides of 
guns and transport wagons. All this life of a great army 
— where do all our men come from after these years of 
fighting? — surges through ruined villages where not a wall 
stands solid, and through that vast desolation that stretches 
out from Amiens across the battlefields of the Somme and 
these new fields of ours where there are still unburied dead 
and the recent relics of frightful strife. One cannot write 
these things in prose. At least not in the haste of a news- 
paper message, but the pictures of all this drama of bat- 
tle stay in one's mind, so that one dreams of them and 
hears even in one's sleep the tramp of many battalions, 
and the rumbling of many gun- wheels over rough and 
stony ways, and the slogging of the guns north and south 
of Bourlon Wood, where the roads go up to that city of 
Cambrai which is now in flames. 

October 3 
TkE Battle of Cambrai continues, with intense and des- 
perate fighting on both sides. The Canadians on the 
north, by Thilloy, Blecourt, and other villages on the out- 
skirts of the city, say that in the last two days they have 



THE BATTLE FOR CAMBRAI 141 

had harder fighting than in any other battle since they have 
been in France, and all the world knows how hard they 
have fought since their first days round Ypres. South of 
the city our English divisions have had fighting just as des- 
perate, and our efforts have been resisted by many German 
divisions thrown in hurriedly after our advance on Sun- 
day last, all of whom have fought with determined spirit, 
knowing how much is at stake if they fail here. 

When I went up the Bapaume-Cambrai road this morn- 
ing, as its strikes east of Bourlon Wood through Fontaine- 
Notre-Dame, I was so close to the city round which this 
battle is raging that I could see very clearly its roofs and 
spires, which were shining in the morning sunlight. After 
the news I had yesterday when I wrote my message I ex- 
pected to see Cambrai in flames to-day. But I could see 
no red fire there, and only clouds of white smoke rising 
from the south and north-west sides, and I now understand 
that these are probably from stores which the enemy is 
burning down by the candle factory and by the canal docks, 
and so far he has not set the town alight as a whole. He 
has deliberately destroyed the churches in the suburbs of 
Sailly and Raillencourt, leaving slow-burning fuses at- 
tached to high explosives when he retreated from those 
places, so that they went up in explosion on Monday and 
yesterday. In one suburb an officer went to sleep in a dug- 
out, and was awakened next morning by an engineer, who 
told him that he had been sleeping on two bags of dynamite 
to which a fuse was attached, but by good luck it was not 
burning. 

On the south side of Cambrai, when I was up there this 
morning, beyond Graincourt and Flesquieres, there was 
very Httle artillery fire on either side. Earlier in the morn- 
ing, when Royal Scottish Fusiliers and Shropshire Light 
Infantry were attacking Rumilly again after frightful fight- 
ing among its ruins, the German gunners flung over large 
numbers of heavy shells, so that the ground was all up- 
heaved by them; but these had now quietened down owing 



142 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

to the advance of our troops eastwards from Rumilly, so 
that the enemy was pulHng back his heavies again to pre- 
vent their capture. He has lost too many guns of late to 
risk those that remain to him in this sector, and on the 
ground across which I went to-day there were several 
abandoned batteries and broken guns lying about among 
those heroic old Tanks of ours that were disabled by a 
German artillery major serving his gun with open sights 
when they advanced over Flesquieres last year. Since then, 
and in the last few days, this ground has been strewn with 
every imaginable kind of wreckage which belongs to bloody 
fighting, and it is plain to see on every yard of soil how 
desperately the enemy resisted our progress here. 

The battle this morning on this southern side of Cam- 
brai was being fought by infantry without much artillery 
support, as it was close fighting in the suburbs of the city, 
where a long street called the Faubourg-de-Paris strikes 
out of Cambrai into the open fields, and where every house 
in it is a machine-gun fort. To the right the ridge for 
which our men fought this morning up to Rumilly was also 
quiet, though all through the night until after a new ad- 
vance of ours at dawn it was on fire with bursting shells. 
I saw the ruins of the village of Rumilly close to a belt of 
slaughtered trees, and from its neighbourhood there came 
the slashing sound of intense machine-gun fire. Across the 
field-tracks our men were marching to support their com- 
rades in that open country, and behind them some guns of 
ours, big fellows, who split the sky w^ith their noise when 
they fire, were moving slowly forward and taking up new 
positions, so that for a little time they were silent. Three 
of our kite balloons were amazingly far forward over Bour- 
lon Wood, staring down into the German lines and taking 
the risk of German shrapnel, which was bursting about 
them. Their observers had to take to their parachutes twice 
yesterday when a German fighting scout circled round 
them and was only driven off in the nick of time by one 
of our air patrols. 



THE BATTLE FOR CAMBRAI 143 

Away north there was also unusual quietude after a 
fierce bombardment lasting for two days, and here there 
is close fighting in the northern suburbs of Cambrai. It is 
here that the Canadians have been fighting in their great- 
est struggle against massed reserves of the enemy, who has 
tried to bear them down by weight of numbers, by su- 
periority of machine-gun fire, and by fierce counter-attacks 
forced hard by men brought fresh into this infernal strug- 
gle. Against the Canadians and the English division on 
their left the Germans now have nine divisions, reinforcing 
those I have mentioned in other messages by the ist Guards 
Reserve and i8th Reserve Divisions, with thirteen marks- 
men detachments and the artillery of thirteen divisions and 
a machine-gun strength giving them four light and four 
heavy machine-guns to each company front — a strong 
sweep of fire in close-range fighting. 

All day yesterday there was ceaseless and severe strug- 
gle on both sides, and after the Canadian attack in the 
early morning, when they gained ground at Ramillies, Cu- 
villers, and Blecourt, and entered Morenchies and Aban- 
court, the Germans counter-attacked again and again with 
almost fanatical courage. They advanced in close forma- 
tions down the valleys of Bantigny and Paillencourt, and 
were seen by the Canadian observers, who called to the 
Canadian guns. Our artillery had human targets at short 
range, and fired for hours with open sights. Their shells 
raked the German ranks, tore gaps in them, and laid out 
men in heaps. Others came up to take their place and 
struggle on to break the Canadian lines, and again the guns 
got them for their targets and killed large numbers of 
them. There was a massacre of men in those valleys, and 
our guns were served until they were too hot to fire. But 
still, under cover of sunken roads and embankment cut- 
tings, the German infantry made their way, regardless of 
all losses, and forced a passage into some of the ruined vil- 
lages, which the Canadians had captured that morning by 
most resolute spirit, though many of their comrades fell, 



lU THE WAY TO VICTORY 

and succeeded in making some of the Canadian battalions 
fall back to the outskirts of those places. One party of 
Canadians were isolated near Cuvillers, and were in a most 
perilous situation for some hours, but they had no thought 
of surrender, and held on to their ground and obtained 
touch with their main line before the day w^as done. All 
Canadians say that the number of German dead strewn 
about this ground is horrible to see, but they have taken 
this toll of the enemy not without paying a severe price 
themselves for the ground they still hold, and after all their 
days of fighting since their first glorious advance south 
of Amiens on August 8, their present actions are a mar- 
vellous achievement. 

On the south side of Cambrai our English, Scottish, and 
Irish troops, with New Zealanders to the south of them by 
Crevecoeur, have had hard days also, but have made fur- 
ther progress this morning. It was our 63rd Naval Di- 
vision with the 57th who on Sunday last secured the bridge- 
heads across the Scheldt (Escaut) Canal at Noyelles, and 
north and south of Noyelles. It was a desperate enter- 
prise, only done by the extraordinary heroism of simple 
soldiers and young officers and non-commissioned officers, 
who would not be checked by losses or deadly risk. 

The Hoods, the Hawkes, and the Drakes, who had taken 
Graincourt and La Folic Wood by a severe struggle, were 
the men of the Naval Division who seized the bridgeheads 
over the canal and made their way across. On the other 
banks were German machine-gunners who could see every 
movement of them, and when some of our men put nar- 
row planks over and tried to cross, swept them off by a 
stream of bullets. But other men followed on, and some 
of them dodged the bullets, and some waded, and some 
swam, and at last our men were able to form up in some- 
thing like a line, and broke into a charge forward to the 
high ground south of Cambrai. They went on to a small 
wood called Paris Copse, which they took, but with the 57th 
Division they were held up for a time by a trench south of 



THE BATTLE FOR CAMBRAI 145 

Proville. They made repeated efforts to get astride the 
road cut straight up from Rumilly to Cambrai, but it was 
held with a machine-gun to every yard, and in face of this 
fire they could not advance. One body of men from the 
Naval Division worked up towards the Faubourg-de- 
Paris, which, as I have said, juts out of Cambrai, but here 
again there was a machine-gun in every bit of ruin, and 
they had to call a halt after desperate efforts to carry the 
street by assault. 

Further north English and Irish troops who fought with 
grim and dogged valour made more progress, and cap- 
tured the outer line of what are known as the inner de- 
fences of Cambrai, east of Proville, which had been cleared 
by the gallantry of the 57th Division. As showing the 
spirit of these men it is astounding but true that two com- 
panies of Ansons, after all their fighting, became restless 
when our barrage-fire started for the 57th's attack on 
Proville, and, as one of their officers puts it, they joined in 
the hunt, though it was outside their boundary. The 
ground all about here is frightful for attack, as it makes 
an open glacis, falling down to the outskirts of Cambrai, 
where our men come under the full sweep of the German 
machine-gun fire, and then rises up steeply to the Faubourg- 
de-Paris. 

Meanwhile, south of all this the 3rd Division, with the 
2nd Division on their left, were endeavouring to gain pos- 
session of Rumilly, for which our 62nd Division of York- 
shires had fought until they were utterly exhausted by lack 
of sleep and any kind of rest. Rumilly was stuffed with 
machine-guns and protected by bits of trench and barbed- 
wire defences, behind which there were many German ma- 
chine-gunners, of the 5th Bavarian Division brought up 
fresh for this purpose. These men fought to the death. 
It was necessary to kill them in order to take their ground, 
and many were killed. They had been ordered to attack 
us and drive our men back across the canal, but the glori- 
ous old 3rd Division were the first to attack yesterday 



146 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

morning, and all day the fighting went on in a bitter and 
bloody way. In one trench west of Rumilly our men cap- 
tured twenty machine-guns, and in the village there were 
many more. They were the Suffolks and others who made 
the first assault on Rumilly yesterday morning, having to 
get across the canal to reach their fighting-line under heavy 
fire. But for all their courage and obstinacy in fearful 
hours they could not get Rumilly, and their main trouble 
came from fire from the neighbourhood of that hill called 
Mont-sur-l'CEuvres (the Mound above the Works), which 
I mentioned yesterday. Here the 2nd Division were try- 
ing to get possession of the hill, and when they succeeded, 
after gallant attempts, it relieved the situation for the "Iron 
Division" further down. 

But it was not until the early hours of this morning that 
Rumilly was finally taken by a different method of assault. 
Royal Scottish Fusiliers and Shropshire Light Infantry 
worked round on the east side of the village and outflanked 
it on that side, while other men of the 3rd Division swung 
through the village from the north-west. Up to last night 
their division had captured twelve officers and 453 men in 
the ding-dong fighting of the day, and this morning they 
have many more. The 3rd Division is now advancing into 
open country beyond that Rumilly switch-line which was 
the enemy's last organized system of defence, in touch with 
the New Zealanders on their right. 

As I have said, the Bavarians are fighting with fierce 
spirit, and one of our officers to-day told me that when a 
British Tank advanced upon one of their machine-gun 
nests near Rumilly the gunners fired until it was right on 
their emplacement, and one man actually refused to release 
his weapon until the Tank had passed over both his legs. 
One curious incident happened to two of our Red Cross 
ambulances, showing the daring of their drivers in follow- 
ing up an advance to rescue the wounded. Believing that 
Rumilly was ours yesterday, the officer in charge of these 
ambulances drove straight for the village and was only 



THE BATTLE FOR CAMBRAI 147 

made aware of the situation when machine-gun bullets 
whipped all round him and a body of Germans rushed out 
to seize the cars. He was hit by a bullet just below the 
waist, and it travelled round his side and came out through 
his left arm. Badly wounded as he was, he made a dash 
for escape, and got away until he fell unconscious some 
distance from the German lines. But he remembers see- 
ing some of the enemy soldiers jump on to the ambulances 
and drive them into Rumilly. What happened to the other 
driver of ours I do not know. 

The strength of German resistance round Cambrai is so 
stiffening and so obstinate now that their troops are rein- 
forced by divisions brought down from Flanders and else- 
where, that it becomes clear we shall not capture the city 
without further fighting of a severe nature, and in spite of 
the loop we have flung round it is possible that the enemy 
will cling to it for some days at least. Indeed, it is likely 
that they may counter-attack on a heavy scale, in order 
to thrust us from its approaches, though that would be 
hard to do. 

Farther south, there was a new attack to-day by Aus- 
tralian and English divisions, who have pushed forward a 
little beyond Levergies and near Ramicourt. Here also the 
Germans are rushing up reinforcements. On the right we 
are in touch with the French Army, who are now well 
established in St.-Quentin and across its canal to the north. 
St.-Quentin has suflfered badly, and some of its streets 
have been already gutted by fire. Never again will the 
world see the glory of that cathedral nor the beauty of its 
old houses. 

Ill 

The Way to Le Gateau 

October 4 
By out attack this morning across the St.-Quentin-Scheldt 
Canal south of Gambrai, where our men have taken many 



148 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

prisoners and broken into the country about Le Catelet, we 
have succeeded in driving the enemy still farther away from 
his main defensive lines, and if we have luck we may force 
him into a retreat to Le Cateau, and by cutting his line of 
communications across the road which goes that way, com- 
pel him to abandon Cambrai. Owing to our constant pres- 
sure north and south of the battle-front he is already in 
wide retreat from his La Bassee salient. God forbid that 
we should give ourselves up at this time of day, after 
frightful disappointments through many years of effort, to 
rosy and optimistic dreams not based on reality or truth, but 
this at least we may say — we are on the eve of amazing 
possibilities, and perhaps there may be open to us a su- 
preme chance of bringing this war to decisive issues. 

It will not be our fault if we miss this chance. Does the 
world even now understand what these troops of ours have 
done and are still doing? I think not, for even we who are 
among them out here, who follow their battles, and go 
through the battlefields, can hardly realize the heights of 
endurance which these men have achieved. It is now Oc- 
tober, and the soldiers who are advancing to-day belong 
to the same divisions as those who fought back in desperate 
rear-guard actions when the enemy flung his massed armies 
against them in March. These are men of the same divi- 
sions who fought in the beginning of our offensive battles 
when the tide turned in August, and every day since then, 
or almost every day, have fought forward through trench 
systems and village fortresses against the desperate resist- 
ance of the German troops until they have thirty miles of 
liberated land behind them from Albert to Le Catelet, 
and every mile of it is strewn with relics of their frightful 
strife. They have lost many comrades on the way — this 
wake of war is scattered over with little white crosses — 
and new drafts have come out to fill up the gaps, but the 
spirit of the old divisions goes on, and the new boys mingle 
with veterans not much older than themselves and carry 
on the tradition. 



THE BATTLE FOR CAMBRAI 149 

They are just working men of England and the Colonies, 
farmers and factory hands, clerks and office boys, and lads 
who were at school four years ago, and in their steel hel- 
mets and their khaki, with dust and mud on them, they are 
all reduced to a dead level of humanity and discipline, and 
one sees no difference between them. One young Tommy 
trudging along the road is the type of all British Tommies; 
one lean Australian stands for all Australia ; one Canadian 
for all Canada. But in this mass of men there has been re- 
vealed anew in recent weeks a high and wonderful average 
of courage and devotion to some ideal that burns inwards 
and does not flame in their eyes or in their speech, and day 
after day they fight and trudge on through fields of fire, and, 
whether death may or may not await them, whether they 
have few hours' sleep or no sleep, whether their bones ache 
with fatigue or their bodies are weak with the burden of 
toil, they keep going until they reach the breaking-point 
which is in human nature. Knowing the frightful hours 
ahead of them, they go towards the enemy's guns. Know- 
ing the full cost of victory, they go and claim it. There 
are cowards among them, no doubt, and they are all afraid 
— because there is nothing funny in shell-fire — but they kill 
their cowardice by some magic they have, and many who 
are most afraid do the most heroic things. 

Not only the men, but their young officers and their 
headquarters staffs, do not spare themselves to the last 
spark of vitality, and a tribute is due to those brigade, divi- 
sional, corps, and Army staffs who have been toiling for 
victory, and what comfort and help they can give their men. 
In the old days of trench warfare they lived in chateaux of 
France, behind the lines, and were targets of satire because 
of their comfort. There is precious little comfort for them 
now, and corps flags and divisional flags fly over holes in 
the ground, amidst old trenches and old ruins, and generals 
and their officers are very far forward with hostile fire dig- 
ging pits about them, while in German dug-outs aban- 
doned by the enemy they direct battles within sight of 



150 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

them, and snatch a few hours' sleep in some narrow bunk 
between oozy walls, if they have the luck to sleep. Every 
other day now they have to shift their lodgings in the 
earth to some spot farther forward, and yesterday, for 
instance, I met a general washing outside his dug-out like a 
private soldier who only a week or so before I had met 
in a dark cave fifteen miles back, which is a long way for 
men to fight when every yard of it is under fire. 

So the whole Army is animated by a single purpose of 
grim endeavour to make haste to victory, so that the world 
may get back to its sane life and men to their women and 
babes, after these years of exile and agony. 

I have already written an account of the astounding feat 
of our 46th Midland Division, who on Sunday last flung 
themselves across the Scheldt Canal at Bellenglise and 
captured 4200 prisoners, great numbers of guns, and over 
1000 machine-guns. But further details that come from 
those Leicesters, Staffords, and Sherwood Foresters in- 
crease the marvel of this achievement, which will rank in 
history as one of the most heroic episodes of this war. 
These men were not romantic fellows like Greek heroes. 
They are boot-makers from Leicester and lace-makers from 
Nottingham, and potters from Arnold Bennett's "Five 
Towns," where life is rather drab and its colour is mono- 
tone. I met them years ago near Armentieres, and after- 
wards at 'Tunky Villas," as they call Fonquevillers, near 
Hebuterne, and the Robin Hoods of the Sherwood Forest- 
ers in their steel hats and their muddy khaki would have 
frightened Friar Tuck if he had met them on a summer's 
day all under the greenwood tree of that orchard in Hebu- 
terne, where every day the birds of death came howling. 
The look of them was as little heroic as that of any of our 
muddy men who trudge along the duckboards leading to 
hell fire. But the spirit of England's old heroic soul was in 
them, and on this last Sunday of battle they went headlong 
into the gates of death, and what they did would be in- 
credible if we did not know its truth. 



THE BATTLE FOR CAMBRAI 151 

Between them and the enemy's main defences in the 
Hindenburg line was the wide water of the Scheldt Canal, 
and on the other side a long tunnel, where the Germans 
could be safe from all our shell-fire, and then come up to 
meet our men with their machine-guns. A frightful place 
to assault by frontal attack. The boot-makers and the 
lace-makers, and the potters and the factory hands of the 
English Midlands practised for their passage of the canal. 
One of their brigadiers, a V.C. — he has the Elizabethan 
touch of character — borrowed all the lifebelts of a leave 
boat, and, putting one on himself, went down to the Somme 
and led his men in, wading and swimming the river, which 
is cold these days. And he taught them how to keep 
their rifles dry and their heads above water. It was with 
these lifebelts on and with scaling-ladders and hand-bridges 
and hawsers that the Midland men went forward to the 
canal in a thick fog last Sunday morning, and made their 
crossing. Shells burst among them, machine-gun bullets 
whipped the water and the banks, but, some swimming and 
some wading, and some hauling themselves across on ropes 
which they had fixed by throwing lead-lines across, and 
then by the first men over pulling the ropes to the other side, 
they gained the German banks at Bellenglise, and, forming 
up in line, went ahead to Lehaucourt and Magny La Fosse. 
On both sides of the valley where the Germans had their 
guns the gunners v^ere firing, and hard fighting ensued 
before the guns could be captured. 

Some of our Tanks were the first to advance upon these 
gun positions, and came under direct fire at close range 
before the Midland men closed in. Large numbers of 
Germans were in hiding in the great tunnel by the canal. 
A thousand of them were down there and would not come 
out, hoping to fight again when our waves had passed, and 
then to blow up mines below our troops. One of our sap- 
pers, advancing almost alone, and cutting down two Ger- 
mans who tried to kill him as he crossed the bridge, broke 
the leads of the mines and saved the lives of many of his 



152 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

comrades. One of the captured German howitzers was 
placed at the mouth of the tunnel and fired down it. It 
made a noise as though mines had been blown and the 
bowels of the earth were rent, and before its echoes died 
away the Germans came rushing out of their tunnel in 
mad panic and were captured by the Midland men above, 
who by this day's work — it was all over by ten o'clock that 
morning — had seized the key of the Hindenburg line above 
St.-Quentin. 

The German withdrawal from the neighbourhood of La 
Bassee was preceded by a heavy bombardment as final salute 
from his guns, which have ravaged this mining country for 
four years, and then his troops stole away on a wide front, 
leaving only a few machine-gun crew here and there. Our 
men, among whom were Lancashire, Scottish, and Irish 
units, followed up as soon as the withdrawal was noticed, 
and went into empty trenches round about Aubers Ridge, 
and through old ruins such as those of Wingles, Salome, 
and lilies, into which our guns have poured shells year after 
year, and whose towers they have seen, as I have seen 
them, from trenches about Hulluch and the Hohenzollern 
Redoubt. There are no towers there now, for the enemy 
destroyed them before he left by fire and explosives. In 
the Cite St.-Auguste, the mining village north-east of Lens 
into which some Gordons went on the first day of the 
Battle of Loos, in the September of 19 15 and never came 
back again, there were yesterday some rear-guards of 
machine-gunners, and fighting took place there before our 
men routed them out. Elsewhere there was scarcely a shot 
fired, and the enemy went away rapidly to his new line 
of defence. It may possibly run behind the Haute Deule 
Canal, at Pont-a-Vendin, to the outskirts of Lille, or, 
rather, to the edge of those formidable defences round 
Lille which make that town a strong fortress. 

The abandonment of Cite St.-Auguste means that Lens 
itself has been delivered into our hands, with its neighbour- 
ing coalfields, for which English and Canadian troops have 



THE BATTLE FOR CAMBRAI 153 

fought such long and fierce battles, and our men are going 
through its ruins to-day. The report comes to me that one 
of our cavalry patrols has met a German patrol on the road 
south-west of Fournes, which is east of IlHes, but I am 
unable to confirm that by certain knowledge. In any case, 
however, our men are far forward from their old line of 
yesterday, and from ruined villages like Salome they are 
staring at the chimneys and roofs of Lille, which seems 
near, though perhaps a river of blood away if we tried to 
take it now. Meanwhile, farther south, in the real storm- 
centre of our present fighting, Cambrai still remains in 
German hands, within the close girdle of the British line. 
North of the city the Canadians have not attacked this 
morning, and are holding their gains against that mass of 
men which the German High Command have concentrated 
here in order to safeguard their line between Cambrai and 
Douai, which would be of deadly consequence if broken 
through. South of the city our English and Scottish 
troops are in the suburbs and streets close to the Faubourg 
St.-Sepulchre and the Faubourg-de-Paris, and drew closer 
last night by the capture of a redoubt near that last-named 
avenue, from which there comes a continual patter of 
machine-gun bullets. The enemy has organized a strong 
machine-gun defence of Cambrai, under some commander 
who knows his job, and has posted his gunners on the 
roofs of Cambrai, with a clear field of fire over the glacis 
below them where our troops have to move in the open. 
There do not seem to be many troops, apart from these 
machine-gunners, in Cambrai. After disgraceful orgies of 
looting, in which officers joined with their men, the city was 
put out of bounds to all German troops except the gar- 
rison of defence. Several new fires were started yesterday 
and are burning to-day, their flames being red among the 
houses, and there are also big fires in neighbouring vil- 
lages, like Niergnies and Cauroy. 

The chief fighting this morning was a good deal south 
of Cambrai, round Le Catelet, Gouy, and Joncourt, where 



154 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

English and Australians made an attack shortly after six 
to-day. Here the enemy had a strong defensive line, which 
is part of the Beaurevoir-Masnieres line, broken farther 
north, and in front of it there are a number of villages, all 
strongly fortified for machine-gun defence, and able to 
bring enfilade fire to bear from one to another. Very ter- 
rible positions to attack, and not easy to hold. One village, 
called Sequehart, has been the scene of fierce fighting for 
two days or more by our men of the 32nd and 46th Divi- 
sions. Twice they have captured its garrison of 200 men, 
and now once again it has been taken. The troops fighting 
here have advanced successfully and have taken nearly 
2000 prisoners beyond Levergies, and north of them Aus- 
tralians have gone forward south of Le Catelet and Gouy 
towards the Beaurevoir line, having hard fighting round 
the village of Wiancourt. On the left of the Australians 
English troops have captured Gouy and Le Catelet, which 
by an error had been claimed in some papers as already 
in our hands. Three thousand prisoners at least have been 
brought back to-day, and if we break the Beaurevoir line 
there is not much to hold our men back from Le Cateau, 
where the "Old Contemptibles" fought on their way down 
from Mons in the first days of the war. On the right of the 
line above St.-Quentin the French army was moving to- 
day at ten o'clock, but I know nothing of their part in the 
battle. 

It is wonderful weather, with sunshine like liquid gold 
in the fields and a sky of unclouded blue. Even the ruins 
of the battlefields have a spell of beauty in this light, and I 
noticed yesterday how their broken walls were dazzling 
white and all the rubbish heaps of timber and bricks and 
twisted iron were touched with a kind of glamour. 

October 5 
This morning, when I went up from Bellenglise to Belli- 
court, and along the great tunnel where the Scheldt Canal 
goes underground for several miles, there was heavy gun- 



THE BATTLE FOR CAMBRAI 155 

ning on the left, by Gouy and Le Catelet, and in the direc- 
tion of Montbrehain and Beaurevoir, where there was 
fierce fighting yesterday, continuing throughout the night, 
and resumed to-day. A famous Enghsh division added to 
their record yesterday by capturing 2000 more prisoners 
at Wiancourt and the outskirts of Montbrehain, where they 
had heavy fighting. It was probably some of these men 
whom I saw marching back this morning shortly after 
dawn, when the mists were white on the fields and dead trees 
on the sky-line above the canal were faintly pencilled in the 
grey sky like the masts of ships in a sea fog. Through this 
greyness and the high thistles that grow between shell- 
craters and trenches came a long column of Germans 
guarded by a few men with fixed bayonets. I watched 
them as they passed, and counted them. There were a 
thousand of them trudging slowly away from the battle- 
line in their long grey overcoats and field-caps. Only a few 
wore the camouflaged shrapnel helmets, and here and there 
was a man without any kind of headgear. Later in the 
day I saw another column of about 600, without over- 
coats this time, having left their line in a greater hurry, 
and an officer with me said : ''It looks like defeat when 
every day one sees such numbers of prisoners coming back. 
Truly it looks like the break-up of an army." Yet the en- 
emy is figliting hard now for his Beaurevoir line, knowing 
that if he loses that he has lost everything that can be 
called a line until he goes much farther back. 

It was no easy fighting for our men yesterday, nor any 
easier to-day. English and Scots of the 32nd Division, 
who retook Sequehart, which had already been in our 
hands twice, were violently counter-attacked, but suc- 
ceeded in beating off these assaults. It was the 2nd Aus- 
tralian Division who broke the Beaurevoir Hne west and 
south-west of that village, working forward with the aid of 
Tanks, which were handicapped by bad ground and water, 
to the outskirts of Montbrehain. On the eastern side of 
the village of Estrees the enemy had a pill-box fortress, 



156 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

from which there came slashing machine-gun fire ; and the 
Austrahans were checked there for six hours until by dog- 
ged efforts they overpowered the place and captured 
200 men in the concrete shelter. While they were outside 
it they were bombarded by gas shells, which is a horrible 
method of fighting, and they had to wear their masks, but 
would not go back because of that. They managed to get 
east of Wiancourt and west of Beaurevoir, and held their 
ground during the night, while English troops were thrust- 
ing back counter-blows which made them withdraw from 
Montbrehain, into which they had penetrated during the 
day. This village was mined, and there were two explo- 
sions while our men were in the streets and fighting bat- 
talions of no less than nine different divisions. The enemy 
was on higher ground than our English and Australian 
troops, and was able to get enfilade fire from one position 
to another, so that for a time the situation at Montbre- 
hain, where our men were fighting from ten o'clock in the 
morning until six in the evening, became untenable. 

On the left of them, around Le Catelet and Gouy, some 
of our English battalions who had taken these places by 
most desperate endeavours were having nagging fighting 
in the trenches and ruins which form part of the old Hin- 
denburg line beyond the canal, and this morning this was 
continued without much progress, although somewhat to 
their right other comrades of theirs were able to make 
ground towards Ponchaux and Beaurevoir. Against them 
were a miscellaneous crowd of Germans, including Guards, 
Grenadier reserve regiment, and the 46thj 88th, 87th, and 
96th reserve infantry regiments, while south of them the 
34th German Division, with scrapings from depots and 
offices, cookhouses and camps, were hurried up to counter- 
attack our men when they were exhausted after long fight- 
ing. So for some hours the German resistance has been 
stiffened, and they are able to keep us in check. It cannot 
be for long, I imagine, because there is no doubt that the 
enemy is in desperate straits for reserves strong enough to 



THE BATTLE FOR CAMBRAI 157 

make a firm stand, and what I saw to-day is a real proof that 
there are no lines ahead of us now, which our men cannot 
break if they have freshness and numbers and are not used 
up by too long a period of fighting. For the men who 
captured the further bank of the Scheldt Canal can take 
anything, and because the Germans could not hold this line 
they can hold no line. I went along a great length of it 
to-day, and was astounded that our men could get across 
with such little cost. It has steep banks 90 feet to 100 feet 
high on each side of the canal cutting, which is dry by 
Bellenglise, but with 5 feet to 6 feet or more of water 20 
yards wide between that village and Bellicourt, some miles 
away, when it goes into the tunnel. It was perfectly pre- 
pared for defence, wath communication trenches leading 
from the lower ground beyond to the high banks, where 
there were machine-gun and field-gun emplacements, hav- 
ing a perfect field of fire, should any men be rash enough 
to advance over the ridge to the western bank. Our men 
were rash enough, and over the canal are the bridges of 
planks by which they passed, and in the water the rafts on 
which they floated. 

*'The old Boche ought to have defended a position like 
this to the crack of doom," said one of our officers this 
morning, and, indeed, it was only the marvellous courage 
of our men, favoured by dense white fog, which achieved 
this crossing of the Scheldt Canal. In time of peace it 
must have been a pleasant place, with steep banks clothed 
with undergrowth, and the long straight vista of water, 
which goes suddenly into the hillside. Even now it has 
none of that grim horror which haunts the Yser Canal, and 
some Australians there to-day hauling up buckets of water 
to the crest of the high banks, seemed in a picnic mood, and 
sang as they worked, though there was bloody fighting 
just up on the left by Gouy, and German shells were crump- 
ing the neighbouring ground, and there was a rattle in the 
sky more prolonged and more intense than anything I have 
seen since the fighting in Flanders last year. 



158 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

German airmen were audacious, and some of their best 
fighting scouts were out above the Scheldt Canal, watch- 
ing our activities and searching for any new menace pre- 
paring against them. Our air patrol challenged them to 
single fights and tourneys, or "dog-fights," as our flying 
men call them without romance, and there was the constant 
chatter of machine-guns overhead and the droning of many 
engines, as our squadrons came sailing up and more hostile 
aircraft appeared from the clouds. From behind the Brit- 
ish lines many thousands of men stared up at this sky battle, 
and there was furious work by our anti-aircraft guns. One 
after another in less than two minutes two aeroplanes 
came crashing to earth, poor broken things. Out of one 
a body fell, swaying so lightly that I think it must have been 
fastened to a parachute, but the other fell like a rocket. So 
in the sunlight which had now broken through the mist 
there was swift tragedy like a stab at the heart, but that way 
of death was better than another way which I saw when I 
went into a tunnel where the water goes under the hill. 
This tunnel is five miles long, but I walked only a little 
way through. It was pitch-dark, without the tiniest glim- 
mer of light, so that its blackness was like velvet on one's 
eyes. By a pocket torch I could see ahead, and I flashed 
it over the black water of the canal, where there were many 
big old wooden barges. Here many Germans had hidden 
until they were routed out, and after that, when a party of 
Australians advanced with torches and hand grenades and 
fixed bayonets, they saw ahead of them a glint of light, and 
shouted, ''Who goes there?" and waited. Presently very 
slowly towards them came, not Germans, but two old bush- 
rangers with a stump of candle between them. "Well, 
boys," they said, "Don't be scared. We're only exploring 
a bit on our own." They had got into the tunnel higher up 
and wxre on the prowl for Germans or souvenirs. 

There are only dead Germans in the tunnel now, and 
dead in such a way that the sight of them revived that 
gruesome story of the German "Kadaveranstalt," or corpse 



THE BATTLE FOR CAMBRAI 159 

factory, which some time ago deceived the credulous. A 
wild rumour spread among English and Australian troops 
that here they had discovered the ghoulish work of boiling 
down German bodies for their grease, and because it is 
likely to spread the tradition I must tell the truth of it. In a 
cavern off the main tunnel were two boilers, and round 
about them lay, as I saw, the bodies of German soldiers, and 
inside the boilers were bits of bodies. What more was 
wanted as evidence of a foul practice? To men of easy 
belief in the worst horrors of humanity such evidence would 
be good enough, but I prefer the mentality of an Australian 
boy, whose face I could not see, but who as he stumbled 
along by my side said : ''I want to get at the truth of this 
tale, because I do not think that any men in the world would 
be vile enough to do such things." And the truth is that 
by some explosion from within or without these German 
cooks and soldiers had been killed and blown to bits as 
they stood round their stewpans, and that parts of their 
bodies had fallen into the boiling grease. I saw a gun- 
carriage in the tunnel close to this cookhouse, suggesting 
that there had been a premature burst of shell in the side 
of the tunnel, and in the roof of the cookhouse itself was a 
small hole, through which a fragment of shell had come. 
But whatever happened to kill the men, it is obvious that 
they had all met a sudden death where they lay, and that 
only disordered imagination or belief by hearsay would 
credit the -fantastic horror of a ''Kadaveranstalt." The 
truth was horrible enough, and I went away quickly into 
the fresh air beyond that black tunnel, with one more mem- 
ory of what war means. 

It was at Bellicourt, by the entrance of the tunnel, that 
the Americans made their attack last Sunday, and continued 
fighting with the Australians as their comrades for some 
days later. I have said something already about their 
audacity in attack and the great enthusiasm of their assault 
upon the German lines, and there is nothing more that I 
can say about it except to pay a tribute to the magnificent 



160 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

valour of those young American soldiers who came into 
their first big battle full of courage and impetuous desire 
— these boys of New York State and Tennessee and North 
and South Carolina — and, leading the advance, broke the 
strongest defences of the Hindenburg line up by Bellicourt, 
and stormed their way across the canal to the machine-guns 
on the other bank, and went forward that day like huntsmen 
in a chase. That must never be forgotten. In one of the 
greatest battles of the war — when we crossed the Scheldt 
Canal and broke the last barrier of the enemy's defensive 
positions — it was these Americans who stormed one of the 
most formidable sectors of the line and overpowered the 
enemy. I have recently been among some of the young 
soldiers, and saw them encamped in our newly won ground, 
and passed their transport on the roads through the battle- 
fields. They looked hard and fit, and were whistling rag- 
time tunes as they sat outside their ''bivvies" writing 

letters. 

I have no time to-day to tell some of the news that 
comes to me from Flanders, where our Scotties went into 
Ledeghem and drank coffee given to them by rescued 
civilians, and heard their tales of suffering in German hands. 
At the beginning of war they had a bad time, and twenty- 
eight of their people were killed on some pretext or other 
by the enemy, and their food, supplied by the American 
Relief Committee, was stolen from them, and their wool 
was taken and their boots were robbed. Later the ar- 
rogance of the German soldiers changed and even in April 
last, when their army was advancing against us, and things 
were bad for us, these soldiers said : ''It is only an EngUsh 
trick to kill us," and they had no belief in victory, and 
have now a belief in absolute defeat. The Belgian ar- 
moured cars have done gallant work up there, and one 
drove into Roulers and escaped only by a hairbreadth, hav- 
ing two of its crew killed and two wounded, and only one 
man left to drive it. 



THE BATTLE FOR CAMBRAI 161 

October 9 
Another deadly blow was struck by us this morning 
against the German army south-east of Cambrai. Several 
thousands of prisoners were already captured early this 
morning when I was up in the battle area beyond Belli- 
court, and more are coming down, and- as we are now work- 
ing round the German gun positions and getting out beyond 
all the trench-lines it seems certain that we shall capture 
some of their artillery. There were many wonderful fea- 
tures about this battle, making it different from other 
attacks. One was the hour at which some of our divisions 
began their advance, and another was the extremely compli- 
cated disposition and movement of our assault troops, ow- 
ing to the lie of the ground and the necessity of clearing 
those parts of the Beaurevoir line which had not yet been 
taken, so that, while some of our troops were fighting 
eastwards towards various villages scattered in front of 
them, others were working southwards and northwards be- 
hind the Beaurevoir line itself. All that made the opera- 
tion very difficult for men new to this ground, and the 
difficulties were increased by the darkness which closed 
them in when they started. Some of them, including Welsh 
troops, began their assault at one o'clock in the night, others, 
like the New Zealanders and English county troops, at 4.30; 
and others, again, including the American troops, attacked 
at half-past five. But they all began to move in darkness, 
which was without any glimmer of moonlight, and with no 
visibility five yards ahead, and it is an astounding thing that 
large numbers of men in these conditions should have been 
able to keep their direction. 

The village of Villers-Outreaux, which was attacked an 
hour after midnight by Welsh troops, with English follow- 
ing them in, was thrust out as a kind of outpost fortress 
in the way of our general plan of advance. It was held 
by a strong garrison, with many machine-guns hidden in the 
houses, and in daylight it would have been a formidable 
undertaking to assault it f rontally ; hence the scheme of at- 



162 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

tack in the dark. The enemy was utterly surprised. I 
know that from prisoners from this village. One of them, 
a rather fine-looking man, with a short blonde beard, 
described what had happened. 

*We were startled," he said, **by heavy fire from the 
British guns, and some of us expected an attack and were 
afraid of being killed. But our officers told us not to be 
alarmed, because it was only a demonstration by the enemy 
guns, and would not last more than two hours, during which 
we should be perfectly safe if we went down in our dug- 
outs. We had good dug-outs under Villers-Outreaux, and 
we all went down, huddled inside them, and listening to the 
bursting shells above, and some of us talking of the peace 
which had been asked for by the Kaiser. None of us 
wanted to die if the war was going to end soon. So two 
hours passed, and, as our officers had said, the drumfire 
ceased. But just as we were beginning to feel safe for 
another few hours at least we heard the shouts of English 
soldiers, and knew then that we were lost, because they 
were all round our dug-outs. We could do nothing, and 
our machine-guns were useless, and we had to surrender." 

I saw some strange scenes across that Canal-du-Nord 
which was crossed a week ago by such great heroism of 
English and Australian and American soldiers. Along the 
roads leading down from the villages we attacked to-day 
there came the first columns of German prisoners and the 
first groups of wounded — ours and the enemy's. American 
soldiers were the escorts of many hundreds of Germans, 
who marched along quietly with their captors. In one field 
beyond the canal I saw nearly a thousand of them assembled 
as they had just come down out of the battle, and from up 
the road there were other parties, with American mounted 
men riding on each side of them. 

The Americans had formed up in the night along the 
line between Ponchaux and Montbrehain, east of the great 
Canal, and before them lay the villages of Brancourt and 
Fremont and Faicourt Hill and Woods. The enemy was 



THE BATTLE FOR CAMBRAI 163 

there in strength, holding each village and each copse with 
many machine-guns and with bits of trench and earthworks 
as strong points. It was ugly ground to attack, but the 
Americans were in good heart and very confident, and 
started well at about ten minutes past five in black darkness. 
They overcame the first German resistance pretty easily on 
account of the surprise to the enemy and his inability to 
see for his machine-gun fire, but farther on they lost their 
advantage of surprise, and German machine-gunners in 
Brancourt tried hard to check them by sweeping fire. The 
Americans had a hard task to get beyond the sunken road, 
where many of these machine-guns were hidden, but by fine 
gallantry stormed the position and swept beyond towards 
Faicourt Woods, which they worked round. They also 
advanced on their left, and penetrated the village of Fre- 
mont after some stern fighting. From both these villages 
they gathered in many hundreds of prisoners, more there 
than 1500, and in the German support trench between these 
points they found four French civilians, elderly men who 
for some reason I do not yet know had been brought into 
this line. I spoke with many American of^.cers, who were 
well satisfied with the progress their men had made, and 
one of them said to me, 'It's a great day for England and 
America." 

Some of the German officers they captured were of high 
rank, and they seemed dazed and disconcerted to find them- 
selves in American hands, but were very polite, and an- 
swered all questions in good English. One of these made 
a frank avowal. "Our position is desperate," he said, 
**we have no strong lines and no reserves behind us, and we 
are finished. There is nothing more that we can do." 

To-day's battle was on a wide front, and our English, 
Scottish, Welsh, and New Zealand troops bore the brunt 
of the fighting, as far as numbers go. On the extreme left 
of the attack we penetrated to the village of Niergnies, just 
south of Cambrai, and our English battalions advanced 
upon it in the darkness, and in the first half-hour took 150 



164 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

prisoners in the outskirts. The only light they had was 
from ruddy fires, giving a wild glare in the night sky. 
Shortly after their assault was launched they were counter- 
attacked strongly, and had to fall back a little from the vil- 
lage, but with help of Tanks they made their way back, 
captured 400 prisoners, and destroyed a German Tank 
which, with two others, had supported the counter-attack 
of the enemy. This is one of the rare times in which the 
Germans have used their Tanks in action — I think the only 
other time was against the Austrahans at Villers-Breton- 
neaux, near Amiens — and yesterday I saw what clumsy 
and slow-going engines these are compared with out latest 
pattern, and especially with our fast "whippets." The Ger- 
man counter-attacks overlapped on to troops south of Nierg- 
nies, where our men were advancing towards Serainvillers 
and La Targette, and for a time those on our left were 
driven back but on the right made good progress, while 
Tanks passed through them and ahead of them towards 
Wambaix. 

South of these positions again English battalions and 
New Zealanders were advancing towards Esnes as a far 
objective, and the New Zealanders went away almost 
too fast, so that they were in danger of getting out of touch 
with the troops on their flanks. A valley lay between them 
and Esnes, where in rainy weather a torrent runs. But by 
good luck it was almost dry to-day. Here the Germans 
had built many concrete dug-outs, and their troops had 
taken refuge in them, and had to be routed out by New 
Zealanders. Along the line towards Esnes there was hard 
and desperate fighting by the enemy, and many were killed. 
Our heavy Tanks cruised along this line, attacking strong 
points and machine-gun nests and rounding up groups of 
prisoners, while the lighter ''whippets" went ahead like 
destroyers in a naval battle and broke down belts of wire 
and spread terror among the German soldiers, who only 
knew our men were near when they saw these queer 
entities like hansom-cabs in Prehistoric Peeps. Some 



THE BATTLE FOR CAMBRAI 165 

stem and bloody work was done round two places called 
Angelus Orchard and Maison Farm, and round about this 
country several of our Tanks were in action, and cleared up 
the positions. Elsewhere there was sharp fighting by some 
brick-stacks organized for machine-gun defence, and this 
was dealt with from the air by a squadron of bombers and 
machine-gunners. 

All through our battle our airmen were flying low, so 
low, as I saw them this morning over the great canal, that 
they seemed like swallows skimming the heads of the 
thistles. There were heavy rain-clouds, and, indeed, at 
about nine in the morning heavy rain, so that it was only by 
flying low that our airmen could get any observation, and 
they risked machine-gun bullets and rifle-fire at short range 
to bring back news, which they did with astonishing speed 
and accuracy. 

Among the infantry who share the great honour of this 
day were those on the Beaurevoir line, who advanced to- 
wards the Walincourt-Audigny line. They met with fierce 
resistance at German strong points, but with stubborn cour- 
age beat this down, and worked round Folie Farm and Ser- 
ain and Villers Farm. They also had the aid of the Tank 
Corps, which rendered gallant service. The full results of 
this day cannot be written at this hour, but it is a day of 
good success when hereabouts we have broken through the 
enemy's last continuous organized lines at a time when, 
without strong reserves in this part of the country, he is in 
grave peril. Whatever happens, this is certain — the Ger- 
man army has been dealt a vital blow when already it is 
weak from loss of blood and failing spirit. 

IV 

The Capture of the City 

October io 
At four o'clock this morning, in darkness except for the 
light of the stars, Canadians and English troops, pressing 



166 . THE WAY TO VICTORY 

close from north and south, joined hands in the chief 
square of Cambrai. This morning the enemy is in re- 
treat behind thin rear-guards, and the whole city of Cam- 
brai is safely in our hands. For a long distance south of 
Cambrai the German army is hard in flight, blowing up 
bridges and burning villages, and our troops are away 
eastward trying to keep touch with the enemy rear-guards. 

This morning I went into Cambrai. As on that day, 
now nearly two years ago, when I first went into Bapaume, 
on a morning of history, this entry into our newly captured 
town was the end of a long phase of war which had reached 
a victorious climax, and the journey I made up the long 
straight road past Fontaine-Notre-Dame was full of inter- 
est, and gave me a sense of drama beyond the ordinary 
scenes of war. Because to get to Cambrai our Army has 
fought a long and a hard fight since those days in November 
last, when our men first came in sight of the city, and then 
had to fall back again, and since last March, when, under 
the weight of the German onslaught, they had to retreat 
almost as far back as Amiens, and Cambrai seemed then a 
world away. But in two months to this very day they have 
not only fought their way back to their old front lines, but 
are now far into country which was never ours before, and 
Cambrai itself is their prize; while the enemy, broken for 
ever in his strength, is in hard retreat beyond. 

Truly to-day is a glorious day for British arms, and the 
honour of it goes to the private soldier and the young 
officer of English, Irish, and Scottish, Welsh, Canadian, 
Australian, New Zealand, and American forces, who, with 
untiring courage, have fought every yard of this way, have 
stormed the strongest lines ever made in war, and beaten 
down every deadly obstacle with which the enemy has tried 
to bar their way. I went towards the city too early to know 
whether it was taken, and even after I had been into its 
streets and out again I met machine-gunners on the out- 
skirts who did not know, and were amazed when I told them 
that I had come out of the place, and that it was full of our 



THE BATTLE FOR CAMBRAI 



167 



troops. The long, straight road from Bapaume through 
Fontaine-Notre-Dame, whose ruins still reek of human 




THE LINE BEFORE THE GERMANS' LAST RETREAT 

strife, and past Bourlon Wood, where the tattered trees are 
hung with yellowing foliage, was deserted, except for a few 
soldiers trudging forward, and here and there a lorry driv- 



168 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

ing daringly near to the noise of the guns. Our guns were 
firing from the woods and hidden places, and their shells 
went howling overhead, but as I drew nearer to the city I 
saw a number of our field-batteries on the western edge of 
it, and they were opening rapid fire. I walked on with a 
friend of mine, and we stood above some German dug-outs, 
where some of our men crouched over their breakfast, and 
from a knoll we looked closer at Cambrai than I had even 
been in this battle. Because where we stood no man could 
have stood and lived a day ago. Behind us, on our right, 
was La Folic Wood, and just a little way ahead were the 
suburbs of St.-OUe and the Scheldt Canal, which is the 
western boundary of the city. Before us were the houses 
and spires of Cambrai under a clear sky, with the sunlight 
gleaming on the roofs. Clouds of smoke, rose-coloured 
and tawny, welled up from the centre of the city and from 
its eastern streets, and a light breeze caught it as it gushed 
out of the gulfs of ruin and folded it like a long pall above 
the tallest spires. "They have burnt the place," was the 
bitter thought that came to us, and a Canadian officer 
described how, all through the night, he had watched red 
flames licking up from the buildings there. 

At ten o'clock, some machine-gunners told me the Ger- 
man artillery had begun a bombardment of the outskirts, 
and there was wild work of lights and flares above the city. 
But a little later, when we heard from a dispatch-rider that 
our troops were inside, and when we walked into its streets, 
we found that the fires were only here and there, and we 
were rejoiced to see that there are many streets and large 
numbers of houses and public buildings hardly touched by 
the traces of war. Along the straight road going to the 
entrance of the city on the western side dead horses lay, 
killed a few hours before by shell-fire, and in one place there 
was a pile of dead horses, which some of our men had 
covered with brushwood to hide their blood and mangled 
bodies. Farther along by some ruined cottages on the way- 
side two dead Germans lay, their field-grey uniforms stained 



THE BATTLE FOR CAMBRAI 169 

red in patches. They seemed like the last two guards of 
the city gates. 

There was no living German to bar our way in. Making 
our way across the Scheldt Canal, w^e got into the outer 
streets of the city. Canadian soldiers were already work- 
ing as though they had been there for days, instead of an 
hour or two, and some of them were collecting fish for 
breakfast. That was an extraordinary thing. Explosive 
charges fired by the Germans to blow up the bridge had 
killed many fish, and hundreds of them lay dead on the 
surface of the canal, washed up by the locks as the breeze 
made a current in the water. There was something un- 
canny and sensational in walking into Cambrai for the first 
time, and so soon after the enemy's fiight. Except for 
English and Canadian soldiers who were passing through 
it to pursue the enemy beyond, there was no sign of life 
anywhere, and I went up the deserted streets and into 
many abandoned houses, and into lonely gardens. Over- 
head there was the noise of aerial battle. German planes 
came over to watch the traffic on our roads, and were chal- 
lenged by our flying men with a rattle of machine-gun fire, 
and our Archies got busy, and there was the whang and 
whine of shrapnel in the sky. In the heart of the city big 
fires were smouldering up by the Place-du-Theatre, and 
beyond the Place d'Armes now and then there were rum- 
blings as though explosions were taking place, and the clat- 
ter of falling masonry. These sounds gave us a sense of 
alertness to danger, and we walked as men who know that 
there is no safety on their way. For we knew that Cambrai 
might be mined, and we had had warnings of booby traps 
so laid that if one trips on a wire or touches any innocent- 
looking object in a deserted house, or treads on a loose 
board in some doorway, sudden things may happen which 
would end all further interest in war or life. 

In a street on the western side of the town a British 
aeroplane stood tail up and nose down. Both its wings had 
gone, and there were shrapnel holes in the chassis. But its 



170 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

wheels were unbroken, and I hoped with all my heart that 
the boy who had flown this thing had been given the luck of 
a safe landing. I went round by the big white barracks 
named by the Germans ''Von Marwitz Kaserne," after the 
general commanding their army, and the man who counter- 
attacked us in the Cambrai salient last November, so mar- 
ring one of our best victories. Everywhere there were Ger- 
man signs revealing the enemy's life in this town, and one 
notice painted on many walls was ''Zur Flinkekiste" (to the 
cinema), showing that the German soldiers have their mov- 
ing pictures like our men in rest billets. But in one door- 
way there was posted up a notice in French, and its words 
dug into one's mind the human tragedy which had happened 
here a few weeks ago, the tragedy of the city's abandon- 
ment by the people who had their homes and their business 
and their interest in life, and suddenly, at the command 
of the enemy in whose grip they were, had to leave every- 
thing and go away deeper into bondage. It was a proclama- 
tion by the German Kommandant of Cambrai, Gloss by 
name, stating that ''In the interest of security, the inhabit- 
ants of Cambrai will be evacuated to a region further re- 
moved from the war-zone." They were ordered to leave 
on September 7 and 8, and each day a train carrying 1500 
people w^ould leave the station. Every inhabitant must 
have his identity and work card, and would be allowed only 
such baggage as could be carried on a long march. So 
these people could only take a few small belongings with 
them, and they had to leave behind all their furniture and 
property of any bulk to become the booty of the German 
looter. 

The Germans had ravaged all the houses and shops for 
"souvenirs," as I wrote yesterday, but there is still furni- 
ture in many houses, and many places have been left just as 
they were abandoned by weeping women of France with 
their children and old men, except for the rummaging of 
Teuton hands. It was pitiful. There are many fine houses 
in Cambrai owned by wealthy people who had good taste, 



THE BATTLE FOR CAMBRAI 171 

and on the walls there still hang gold-frame mirrors and 
pictures, and there are torn tapestry hanging up at win- 
dows and heaps of books and papers scattered about the up- 
turned furniture which was once very handsome in the 
style of Louis Quatorze. These houses and salons into 
which I looked reminded me of the scenes in the French 
Revolution, which must have happened like this in Cam- 
brai. But what touched one most was the wreckage of 
the smaller houses and little shops and restaurants. I looked 
into houses where women's sewing-machines still stood on 
the tables as they had done their work with their babes 
around them. Perambulators stood on the thresholds or 
in the passageway, and children's dolls lay on the floors as 
they had been dropped because of the terror that had fol- 
lowed the notice on the walls, signed by Kommandant 
Gloss. China and glass were in the cupboards or on the 
kitchen tables unbroken amidst the litter of clothes turned 
over by German soldiers searching for things to take away. 
I went into one little parlour and found all the crockery 
neatly arranged by some careful housewife and an array of 
wine-glasses on the sideboard. 

At every step one saw evidence of the peaceful civilian 
life in Cambrai through all these years of war, until that 
day in September last when it was destroyed by proclama- 
tion. One queer thing stood in the middle of one street. 
It was a dressmaker's mannikin, wearing a straw hat, and 
with a pearl necklace round its wooden shoulders. And in 
another street nearby there was something more queer. At 
first I thought it was a mask of the Kaiser's face fastened 
to a rainspout. But, going nearer, I saw it was a human 
skull staring up with sightless eyes. A church stood un- 
broken by shell-fire except for damage to its windows, and 
I went inside and saw that it was all arranged for service, 
with candles on the altar. The statues of the saints were 
untouched, and everything seemed new and bright and 
gilded. The cathedral of Cambrai is scarred, but not yet 
badly hurt. A Renaissance building like that of Arras and 



172 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

the tower of the Town Hall, beautiful in its Gothic work, 
points upwards to the sky as through many centuries of 
history. But this tower is on the edge of the smouldering 
fires, and if they spread it will not escape. 

One interesting place was the shop of the Spanish-Dutch 
Relief Committee, once the American Relief Committee, 
for providing food to the French inhabitants in the oc- 
cupied zone. It was in full working order, with all its 
shelves neatly arranged, and wooden counters labelled for 
the distribution of sugar, milk, beans, cocoa, and so on, and 
I found bundles of ration cards neatly done up and ready 
for issue. One's imagination realized the crowd which 
must have come here for food as to a fairy godmother in 
that beseiged town, with all the women lined up behind these 
counters. I have no more time to describe the romance of 
this deserted city, the first large city still upstanding which 
we have captured since the war began. There was no fight- 
ing in it this morning. English and Canadian troops en- 
tered when the enemy was in flight, and found only thirteen 
German soldiers, who had stayed behind in hiding. I saw 
three of them brought into the office of the Canadian bri- 
gade to be searched for papers and arms, and they were 
very scared. 

The last big fight for Cambrai took place yesterday at 
the suburb of Niergnies, on the south, where our Naval 
Division, the 63rd, stormed their way through with splendid 
courage. It was the southern gateway to Cambrai, and the 
enemy defended it in strength. But the Ansons, Hoods, 
and other naval men smashed through their trenches, and 
took many prisoners, and then drove right through the vil- 
lage to the eastern side. Here, at eight o'clock in the morn- 
ing, they were counter-attacked fiercely, and the enemy 
brought into action seven British Tanks which they had 
captured in the earlier fighting. They were fired at by 
German anti-Tank guns found by our men, and two of our 
battalion commanders, one of whom is a gunner, directed 
this fire. One of these officers made use of a German 



THE BATTLE FOR CAMBRAI 173 

field-gun, and knocked out two of the Tanks with German 
shells, and would have done more damage but for using up 
all the German ammunition. But five out of seven Tanks 
were destroyed, and the other two departed in a hurry. 
A topsy-turvey kind of affair. At first a counter-attack 
drove back the Naval Division men to the eastern outskirts 
of the village, but they counter-attacked the counter-attack 
with the help of a barrage, and captured many more Ger- 
mans. 

Elsewhere yesterday's battle between Cambrai and our 
position north of St.-Quentin gave us more than 8000 
prisoners. The New Zealanders had very hard fighting for 
the village of Lesdain, which remained in their hands, and 
took many prisoners. The American division alone took 
more than 1500 prisoners in the capture of Brancourt and 
Fremont, which I described yesterday. Heroic fighting was 
done by the English and Scottish battalions of the 25th 
and 66th Divisions in the storming of Serain. They have 
their reward to-day for their daring yesterday, for that 
most audacious battle in all this war perhaps, when masses 
of men attacked in pitch-darkness, and before daylight, 
broke the enemy's strong positions by smashing through his 
Beaurevoir line where he still held a long strip of trenches 
and earthworks. 

The reward of all our men and of Americans who are 
our comrades is that to-day the enemy is retreating so fast 
and so far that we can hardly keep pace with him. It is 
difficult to find even his whereabouts opposite some of our 
corps fronts, and to show his speed it is interesting to know 
that he is 10,000 yards farther east than the line he was 
holding at Esnes yesterday. That was early this morning, 
and he may be even farther now. German prisoners tell 
us that it is the Germans intention to destroy everything 
in the wake of their retreat, as they did in March, 1917. 
But we have hurried them too hard to allow the incendiaries 
to get to work in some of the villages now liberated, though 
at some places beyond fires are visible. 



174 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

The enemy has also had to leave behind him several 
thousand civilians — 500 in Serain and 5000 in Bohain. A 
friend of mine saw some of these poor people to-day. Being 
in Cambrai, I did not meet them. They greeted the arrival 
of the British soldiers with tears and cheers, and showed 
wild joy at their liberation. There were scenes Hke those I 
saw at Tincourt during the first German retreat — proces- 
sions among our guns and transport and old people in 
wheelbarrows and sturdy grandmothers carrying big 
bundles, with grandchildren clinging to their skirts. At 
Serain they were given their choice to stay or leave eight 
days ago, and most of them stayed in big cellars beneath a 
lace factory, in which they stored food. The German com- 
mandment prepared a large white flag with a red cross, and 
hoisted it over the village as a sign to our gunners not to 
shoot, and they did not shoot, but an hour after our entry 
the Germans began to bombard the place, and the poor 
civilians had to escape under the shell-fire. That was at 
ten o'clock yesterday morning. 

So begins another chapter of the history of this war, for 
with the capture of Cambrai and the new German retreat we 
end these amazing two months of fighting for the city, all 
the way from Amiens, and have inflicted a definite defeat 
upon the enemy, and killed all his hopes as a military 
Power. 



PART VIII 
THE LAST PHASE 

I 

Our Armies of Pursuit 

October id 
The enemy is still retreating, and our men are fighting 
round Le Cateau, famous for the battle by the "Old Con- 
temptibles" in August 19 14. 

Among the troops attacking Le Cateau are Manchesters 
and Lancashire Fusihers, and also Inniskilling and Dublin 
Fusiliers and Connaught Rangers of the 66th Division 
alongside the 25th Division. The enemy is holding a line 
down from Solesmes, and is said to be in some strength. 
But our troops advancing yesterday from ground beyond 
Serain which they had captured by hard fighting, and where 
the Connaughts had to resist severe counter-attacks, are 
now astride the old Roman road leading to the town, and 
are in the northern suburbs. 

South of Le Cateau the 20th Division are near the vil- 
lage of St. -Benin, with many German machine-gunners 
holding positions in front of them. The Germans were 
cleared from Elaincourt the night before last, and some 
of our troops pushed forward all day yesterday and gained 
Bertry and Maurois. 

Meanwhile, around Cambrai our nth Division has 
cleared a wide tract of ground beyond Paillencourt, and the 
Canadians have gone across the Erclin river and are hold- 
ing Avesnes-le-Sec and Naves, north-east of Cambrai. 

175 



176 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

The Canadians deserve special honour for hurrying the 
enemy out of Cambrai itself before he was ready to go by 
an attack delivered at 1.30 that night, when they took be- 
tween 300 and 400 prisoners and smashed the German 
rear-guard. But our 57th Division had fought also with 
great gallantry on the outskirts of Cambrai and had joined 
hands with them in the city on the morning of its capture. 

Our pursuit is everywhere in touch with the enemy, and 
is pressing his retirement. But almost as important now as 
these military operations is the effect of the peace pro- 
posals on the psychology of the German soldiers. From all 
I have heard to-day from people who have been listening 
to German conversations for four years I am convinced 
that any delay in obtaining peace will create despair among 
many German soldiers. These men are panting for peace, 
and have no will for further fighting unless they have to 
fight as beasts at bay will fight. They want to go back to 
their homes in Germany. That is their constant plaint, and 
they are ready for peace on any terms which will end their 
misery in the fields of war. 

To-day I have been with our pursuing troops far beyond 
the Scheldt Canal and the Beaurevoir line, through many 
villages into which our men have gone without a fight. 
Yesterday morning, after I had left Cambrai on a lorry 
driven by a soldier in a most respectable top-hat — he was as 
grave as a judge on the way to quarter sessions and hid the 
twinkle in his eye until I chafTed him for his choice of 
souvenirs — it was reported that there were many explo- 
sions inside the city, and that fires were spreading. This 
alarming statement was an exaggeration, and, although 
some explosions were caused by smouldering fires near the 
Place du Theatre, the conflagration has not spread, and the 
city remains to-day as I saw it yesterday, with many streets 
and houses undestroyed, and with beautiful gardens en- 
closed in walls so neat and trim that when I stepped inside 
and saw their flower-beds and their fruit-trees it seemed to 



THE LAST PHASE 177 

me like enchantment beyond the ruin through which we 
have waded in four years of fighting. 

And to-day I had a similar feehng when I went beyond 
the battle-zone and came for the first time into undestroyed 
villages where there were real roofs on upstanding houses 
and walls with neat red bricks unpierced by monstrous 
shell-holes and shops and schools and market-places just as 
in French villages behind our lines and beyond gun-range. 
Yet these places were in front of where our fighting-lines 
have been, and until a night and morning ago behind the 
German lines, and our way to them lies through a forty- 
mile belt of desolation, where no village is standing nor any 
house, nor any wall, nor any shed, but all is flung into an 
obscene chaos of ruin. I drove through those forty miles 
this morning — the vv^hole depth of our advance since August 
8, and every mile of it was haunted by memories of bloody 
fighting, and every landmark of broken brickwork or dead 
trees or twisted iron was a place where men of ours have 
done heroic and deadly things. 

It was when going through Aubencheul and Villers- 
Outreaux, beyond the great canal which our men crossed, a 
famous Sunday ago, and through the Beaurevoir line, with 
its belts of rusty wire which they stormed in their last big 
battle, that I saw fresh tracks of strife and the relics that 
always tell one that only a day or two have passed since 
war was here. Along that road, in ditches on either side, 
lay dead horses and overturned gun-limbers and smashed 
guns. I have never seen a road so strewn with dead beasts, 
not even the Menin road in Flanders. Every yard along 
the way shell-holes had punctured the banks on either side, 
and artillery teams, driving at the gallop towards Villers- 
Outreaux, had been slashed by fire. It was the way of 
the German retreat and a way of horror. 

Villers-Outreaux was the place which the Welshmen at- 
tacked in pitch darkness two nights ago,- when they closed 
in upon the German garrison and fought their machine- 
gunners and then stormed the village from end to end, 



178 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

taking many prisoners. Our side of it was damaged in the 
usual way by shelling, and walls were smashed to rubbish- 
heaps, but the centre of the village, which is a large place, 
was hardly touched, and the buildings round its old market- 
place were unscarred by battle. 

Beyond that village there was clean country, with fields 
ploughed after harvest, and smooth roads and little towns 
like Malincourt and Walincourt and Selvigny, which were 
quite unscathed by war and beautiful to see by eyes tired to 
death of ruin. They had whitewashed walls and red-tiled 
roofs, and the mairie stand solid and square near the 
market-places, and the Ecole Communale, the public school 
of the hamlet, has unbroken walls and windows. 

Truly it was wonderful to see such places beyond that 
forty miles of misery, but more astonishing was it to find 
the inhabitants of the villages still in their houses and shops, 
still smiling after four years of agony in the enemy's hands. 
They stood in little groups staring with joyful eyes at the 
passing of British soldiers and British transport soldiers, of 
the Welsh Dragon, who still has its tail up, though it has 
travelled far since crossing the Ancre in August last. The 
women surrounded any soldier who could speak a little 
French, and poured out their gratitude for this deliverance. 
One man stood on the step of my car, taking off his hat, 
and bowing and shaking hands with an excited courtesy. 
*'Ah, monsieur,'* he said, *'you cannot understand what it 
means to us after four years of suffering. Your soldiers 
have fed us, and we needed food, but best of all is the gift 
of liberty." 

At Selvigny, where there are more than 500 civilians, I 
chatted with many of the women and children and with 
eldedy men who had not been taken away like all male 
civilians between sixteen and sixty, whom the Germans had 
driven before them on their retreat. These people told me 
many tragic things — the tragedy of small, nagging things, 
which every day, in hostile hands, had fretted their spirit 
and their pride. The Germans had robbed them of every- 



THE LAST PHASE 179 

thing in their farms and houses. They had stolen their 
Hnen and their window curtains, they had killed their fowls, 
and they had made them pay fines — 1700 francs at Selvigny 
— for not producing enough eggs. They requisitioned their 
butter and their milk and their vegetables, and they would 
have starved, or nearly starved, if it had not been for the 
International Relief Committee. 

Stores came every fifteen days, but even then the Ger- 
mans laid hands on some of the supplies, such as lard and 
any kind of fat. **Were you really hungry?" I asked a 
woman who was packing some things into a perambulator 
before leaving for a safer place, and she said in French 
(which is better than English for this phrase) : 'There was 
too much for death, but not enough for life." She passed 
her hand over her face, smiling a little at her own words, 
and said: *'You will not find us looking fat." And truly 
she and the other women had a pinched look with sharp 
cheek-bones and pale skin tightly drawn. 

Their memories went back to old things of horror in the 
first days of their captivity four years ago. At Crevecoeur, 
when English soldiers retreated there, they fastened a steel 
chain across the road to check the pursuit of the German 
cavalry, and when the enemy arrived they accused civilians 
of having done this, and eighteen of them were shot. The 
cure of Malincourt, so one man told me, though I cannot 
believe him without futher evidence, was shot for giving 
hot soup to a wounded Englishman. 

A number of English soldiers were cut off during the 
retreat, and stayed with these French people, working as 
their servants, but when this was discovered by the Germans 
they made the men kneel in a ditch, and a firing party was 
brought up, and they were killed. Even the people who 
harboured them were punished and sent into Germany to 
forced labour. Those are old stories in the first days of 
terror. 

Since then these people say the Germans behaved well 
enough and did not commit any atrocities, and some of 



180 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

them were kind and polite, though many were hard and 
arrogant. So it went on until the last few days, when be- 
fore the British advance the garrison of Selvigny and these 
other villages did brutal things by order or v/ithout order. 
They told inhabitants that the English were coming and 
that they must fly, but when the civilians refused to go, 
crying out ''No, no, we will stay, nothing will make us go," 
they were ordered down into their cellars in case they were 
bombarded. And when they were there the German sol- 
diers pillaged upstairs and smashed their furniture and their 
ornaments, and rummaged about their private things search- 
ing for souvenirs and booty that could be carried easily. 

The cure of Selvigny, with whom I had a long talk this 
morning, told me other things more tragic. I found him in 
his kitchen surrounded with women who were helping him 
to arrange the evacuation of their children and old people, 
and as he told me his story they listened and broke in now 
and then to add some detail which he had forgotten, to raise 
their hands and say, "Yes, the brutes did that to us." 

I had already heard of one thing that happened two days 
ago in Selvigny, but I was glad to hear it at first hand from 
this old priest, who, by great courage and cunning, had 
saved his church from destruction, the red-brick church 
which I saw through his window as we were talking. 

"I knew they meant to destroy it," he said, "because I 
saw German soldiers put bombs at each corner of the tower 
and carry up cases of explosives into the loft. Then I saw 
them fix wires across the little cemetery, and I knew that 
unless the English came quickly my dear church would be 
blown up. But the night before they came I crept out and 
searched for the wires, and by good luck found them with- 
out being seen. I cut them, and then came back feeling 
very joyful and yet a little afraid lest my trick should be 
discovered." 

He told me of the suffering of his people, but said this 
was due largely to the condition of war, and no protest 
could be made for what was the inevitable misery of war. 



THE LAST PHASE 181 

What angered him, what seemed to him useless and in- 
credible cruelty, was that by the German High Command 
all the machines by which these people earned their liveli- 
hood in time of peace were destroyed. At Selvigny, Walin- 
court, and other villages all around the people make em- 
broidery and tulle, and for this work have delicate and 
expensive machines, those at Selvigny costing 50,000 francs. 
French inhabitants from the district of the Somme were 
ordered to break the machines which their poor owners 
would not do, even though they died for their refusal, and 
this destruction was carried out before their eyes as part of 
the general scheme to destroy French industries. 

The cure took away some of the delicate parts of machin- 
ery and hid them, but this was discovered, and he was fined 
100 marks, and the machinery was broken up and scattered 
outside his doors. Some time afterwards a Bavarian priest 
came to the village and was lodged by the cure, and because 
he could speak no French the old cure wrote down in Latin 
the thing that had been done to kill the handicraft of his 
people. The Bavarian priest read the words and made no 
kind of answer, but was very much confused. 

All these villagers told me to-day that the German sol- 
diers are enraged with their Government for having caused 
them so much misery, and are especially savage with those 
they call the capitalists, whose blood they promise to shed. 
'*As sure as the rising of the sun," said one French villager, 
''there will be revolution in Germany after the war." 

And all these people agree in saying that the German sol- 
diers are suffering grievously from lack of food, espe- 
cially during the last two months, and that they are glad 
even to go into the front line in spite of all their fears be- 
cause there they are better fed than when in rest. Prisoners 
taken in recent fighting by our 66th Division near Cambrai 
were surprised that they should have been attacked on what 
they believed was the eve of peace. One of their officers 
said: 'Teace will be signed at six o'clock to-night," and 



182 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

they all thought that the German proposal would be ac- 
cepted instantly by the Allies. 

I 

October 12 
The enemy is attempting to delay our pursuit by rear- 
guard screens, in order, I believe, to gain time for an or- 
derly and wide retreat, and his resistance is stiffening north- 
east of Cambrai. At some points his retreat has been dis- 
orderly eastwards from Cambrai. 

When he was hustled out of that city two mornings ago, 
and when our cavalry patrols came astride the Le Cateau- 
Cambrai road, with the 6th Division pressing close to Le 
Cateau itself, the German plan of retirement, which became 
inevitable as soon as our heroic men stormed their way 
across the Scheldt Canal and left the Hindenburg line far 
behind them, as an ironical comment on ''invincible de- 
fences," was violently disturbed. 

The German High Command had, in my opinion, drawn 
up a secret scheme of retreat which included ruthless de- 
struction in their wake. All churches, like that at Selvigny, 
where yesterday I saw the bombs and explosive charges 
made useless by the courage of the old priest who cut the 
wires, were to be blown up. All bridges were to be mined, 
and craters were to be made in the roads — at Selvigny four 
Germans left to do this work were blown to bits in the ex- 
plosion — in order to stop Tanks and armoured cars, and 
everything of use to Germany in her last ditches of defence 
was to be packed up and taken away. 

At Caudry, which fell into our hands yesterday with 
2500 civilians, there was a German detraining point, and 
British prisoners of war are said to have been employed in 
transferring large stores of food, ammunition, hospital 
tents, and other material, including French pumps and pump 
handles, and any metal work left among the villages. 

There seem to have been elaborate preparations to de- 
stroy the whole area around Caudry, Lesdains, Esnes, and 
all the towns and hamlets north and south and east of Cam- 



THE LAST PHASE 183 

brai. Our men were too quick for them, and that country 
as far east as Le Cateau is undestroyed, in our hands, and 
many poor people have been Hl:rated from the enemy, in- 
cluding 4000 at Bohain. So by our rapid pursuit the Ger- 
man retreat was for a time thrown into some confusion, 
and our airmen flying low over their ritckmarschstrasse — 
roads of retreat — got back sometimes with descriptions of 
wild stampedes. 

Along these roads eastwards through Bazuel, Mazinchien, 
Catillon, Wassigny, and scores of other villages, there were 
surging tides of traffic, guns, wagons, farm carts, and all 
kinds of transport struggling slowly along, through retreat- 
ing troops and streams of French civilians driven away 
from their homes. Sometimes this traffic gets blocked at 
cross-roads, wagons lose their wheels and are abandoned in 
ditches, carts piled high with heavy weights break down and 
hold up the tide. There is confusion and disorder on some 
roads, say our flying men, and they do their best to add to 
the fear which is marching with this retreating army. At 
Reumont and Troisvillers, before our cavalry swept round 
and captured them, our flying men swooped low and 
dropped bombs on German columns, causing many casual- 
ties and panic. So they did at Le Cateau, before the Con- 
naught Rangers and the Manchesters and Fusilier battal- 
ions closed in and entered the town, where Germans were 
still fighting this morning in the eastern outskirts. For the 
first time in this war the German army knows the terror of 
retreat with hostile forces hard upon their heels, and from 
now until the ending of it that terror will be with them. 

The German army has the spirit of defeat. They are 
thinking only of peace, and do not care about the terms un- 
less they are threatened with extermination. The news of 
the Kaiser's peace offer has thrown them still more off their 
mental balance, and if the ending does not come quickly 
their demoralization will be worse than before. A number 
of prisoners have surrendered to our cavalry operating east 



184 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

of Cambrai in the belief that the armistice had already been 
signed. 

Men of the 8th German Division were captured without 
resistance because, it is reported, they had received the 
Kaiser's telegram announcing something like consent to 
President Wilson's propositions. Men of the 2nd German 
Cyclist Brigade went to sleep at Fresnoy with these dreams 
of peace, and were made prisoners while sleeping. It is dif- 
ficult to imagine what will happen to the mental state of 
these war-weary men if war still goes on for any length of 
time. I think they will not have any flaming loyalty to the 
Kaiser and his generals, who are feeding them with hope 
of getting home again. 

Our cavalry and cyclist patrols are doing gallant and 
useful work, and our infantry is now drawing near the 
crossings of the River Selle, which is the southern defence 
of Valenciennes, where the enemy's main lines of com- 
munication from Lille, Tournai, and all his northern armies 
are centred. This threat of ours is a most mortal menace, 
and it is clear that he will fight desperately to hold this line. 



11 

The Crossing of the Selle 

October 14 
In order to cover its retreat and to prevent our forcing the 
pace too hard along those crowded roads where his trans- 
port is strung back in twisted knots of traffic, slashed by 
our gun-fire and harassed by our flying men, the German 
command ordered their rear-guard troops to hold out to 
the death on the River Selle, east of Cambrai, and there 
during the last two days our men have been trying to force 
the passage to the further bank. 

This River Selle does not look important on the map, 
and its name is unfamiliar, but for the enemy it was a strong 



THE LAST PHASE 185 

defensive position, because its banks are cut very sharply 
down to the stream, 20 feet wide and 5 feet deep, which 
winds round the villages of Solesmes, Briastre, Neuvilly, 
Le Cateau, St.-Benin, and St.-Souplet, each one of these 
places having a machine-gun fortress. The Germans held 
this line in strength, with field artillery supporting them, 
and all advantages of ground were on their side, because 
our men had to attack down a glacis swept by their fire, 
and make bridges over the river below before they could 
storm the heights beyond. 

This feat was done by the extreme valour of men be- 
longing to English, Scottish, and New Zealand units. 
Among the English troops were West Ridings and East 
Yorks, Lancashire FusiHers, and Manchesters. Some of 
these men had fought their way towards the river by a se- 
ries of small battles, very fierce while they lasted, in and 
around the villages of Clary, Caudry, and Bertry, where the 
Fort Gurry Horse worked with them. 

The Scottish Rifles and Queens of the 33rd Division 
marched fifteen miles and fought twelve before reaching the 
River Selle. They passed through Welsh troops, who have 
won high honour by their long progress and terrific staying 
power, and took Clary after a sharp battle at nine o'clock 
on the morning of October 8. Here a number of civilians 
were in the cellars, and their priest, like that other one at 
Selvigny, whose narrative I have recorded, saved his 
church by cutting the wires before the retreating Germans 
could touch off their explosive charges. 

The Scottish Rifles, Queens, and Cameronians of the 
33rd Division reached Bertry at two o'clock in the after- 
noon and the neighbouring village of Troisville, which had 
been captured by our Dragoon Guards, with Canadian 
Horse. With assistance from the cavalry they then pushed 
on to Neuvilly and the banks of the River Selle. Here 
they realised the deadly nature of the ground ahead of them, 
when that wide ribbon of water curled beneath sharp-cut 
banks, upon which the enemy was in strength with massed 



186 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

machine-guns. For a time they could do nothing in face 
of that fire, but they had orders to get across, and they set 
about the job, Hke many comrades north and south of them 
faced with the same problem. The river was strewn with 
tree trunks cut down by the Germans, and some of the men 
got across by creeping out on these logs among floating 
brushwood, and others waded across up to their necks in 
water, but they had to come back because of the hail of ma- 
chine-gun bullets. 

In the night, between dusk and dawn, they made bridges 
between Montigny and Neuvilly, covered by the Worces- 
ters of the 33rd Division, and yesterday morning the Ar- 
gyll and Sutherlands and others stormed the passage of the 
Selle, and fought their way up to the heights on the farther 
banks, and had desperate fighting on the railway between 
Amerval and Neuvilly, in the German main line of resist- 
ance. The Germans fought hard and bravely, especially 
the men of their 5th Cyclist Brigade and 34th Reserve Di- 
vision from Metz. 

Further north, above Neuvilly, Lancashire Fusiliers, 
Manchesters, and West Ridings of the 17th Division had 
succeeded in crossing the stream by wading and log-crawl- 
ing under the frightful sweep of bullets, and found many 
Germans in a camouflaged trench on the other bank. They 
cut their way through, smashing down the new wire, and 
went on 800 yards to the railway, killing many of the en- 
emy and taking nearly fifty prisoners. 

A little farther north still the East Yorkshires of the 
37th Division who had crossed the river the day before had 
to come back as best they could under fierce counter-at-* 
tacks, and yesterday morning, with Manchesters, made the 
crossing again. Sappers made bridges while they waited, 
bridges of a frail kind and insecure because the bridge 
builders were working under fire, which spoilt a good job, 
and these sappers actually held them firm as they stood in 
the water, while the infantry went across. They had des- 
perate fighting along the railway and in the village of Neu- 



THE LAST PHASE 187 

villy, where the Germans had made a machine-gun post in 
every house, and had machine-guns firing out of the win- 
dows and from the roofs of buildings, and the tower of the 
church. 

The New Zealanders at this time were fighting their way 
to Briastre on the river bank below the high ground on the 
other side called Bellevue, from which the enemy could see 
every movement they made. These New Zealanders had 
already been fighting for days, since their marvellous cap- 
ture of Welsh Ridge and La Vacquerie on October 2 and 
3, and their capture of Lesdain and Esnes on October 6, 
where the New Zealand Rifles and a Canterbury battalion 
fired their Lewis guns from their hips, captured many pris- 
oners, and repulsed the counter-attacks which the enemy 
made with a captured Tank of ours. 

That was a battle of Tanks, and one of ours charged a 
German-British Tank, outflanked it, and poured in a broad- 
side which blew it to bits. The New Zealanders went on 
again to the villages of Beauvois and Fontaine and Viesly 
(whence our line ran to St.-Hilaire and Avesnes, taken by 
the Guards and 24th Division), driving the enemy before 
them, and on October 1 1 took Briastre, on the River Selle, 
where they found 170 starving civilians crouching in their 
cellars, including an old woman of eighty-two. These poor 
people were unable to get out because of the barrage, and 
were in a most pitiable state. Yesterday, the New Zealand- 
ers forced the passage of the river and fought their way 
up to the heights of Bellevue and are fighting there now. 

Amidst all this fighting and beyond it, there is another 
drama of a most strange and pitiful kind. It is the tragedy 
of those French civilians whom our men are now meeting 
as they capture village after village, where these old peo- 
ple and young women and children are waiting in their 
cellars for deliverance, hearing the approach of the bat- 
tle, the louder noise of our guns, the crash of shells above 
them, the deadly rattle of machine-gun fire down their 
streets, at last cheers or the tramp of our men. On the 



188 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

roadsides and in the villages just taken I meet these peo- 
ple and talk with them, and the look of them and the things 
they say — such tragic and passionate things, such simple 
and frightful things — reveal the world of agony in human 
hearts divided from us for four years by German lines, 
and now coming through to us as that barrier is broken. 
Yesterday I met many of them on a far journey through 
those places which our men have just captured, and in one 
town — for Bohain is more than a village — where the enemy 
is still close outside the walls. 

A long street straggled past mean houses into the centre 
of the town where there were factories and factory chim- 
neys and big warehouses and a tall red-brick church. It was 
in this long street that I met the first group of civilians, 
though I had seen w^omen and children, through cottage 
windows and standing in their doorways, and was startled 
by their starving look and the waxen pallor of their faces. 
Three men came and spoke to me, one a handsome middle- 
aged man with a spade beard and a distinguished w^ay of 
speech, the second a little old gnome-like man of seventy 
or so, wath a rugged, labourer's face, and the third a tall 
man with a short black beard and high cheek bones and a 
queer light in his eyes. It was the man with the spade beard 
who spoke first and fastest. He took my hand and said : 

"You are an English soldier, come and see what the 
Germans have done in Bohain. Go round these streets and 
speak to our women. Go to our town hall, w^hich cost great 
sums of money, and see how, before they left, they blew 
it up and burnt it to the ground. Go to our factories, which 
were filled with machinery by w^hich our people earned their 
bread before the war, and you will see that they have left 
nothing; not one bar of iron, not one little w^heel; noth- 
ing, nothing. Tell your soldiers and your people that the 
Germans are devils, bandits, brigands, pigs, and brutes. 
Tell them how they made your prisoners suffer; how they 
starved them so that they dropped dead as they walked.'* 

He pointed to a little field through a gap in the red-brick 



THE LAST PHASE 189 

houses, and said: 'There are graves of English soldiers 
who starved to death in Bohain." He pointed to the door- 
way close to us, and said, "Outside that house I saw one 
of your men drop down dead from hunger." 

"Oh, my dear sir," said the little old man, "the suffering 
of your English soldiers was very bad. They came in so 
strong and big, and gradually we watched them weaken 
until they were too weak to stand, and they were just liv- 
ing skeletons. Our w^omen tried to give them food, though 
they had not enough themselves, and were struck and fined 
and put in prison for sparing a little of their bread." 

I spoke to some girls standing in a doorway, pretty girls 
and very neat and clean, but with that dreadful w^axen pal- 
lor which belonged to all people in Bohain. They laughed 
and wept as they talked to me, and both the laughter and 
their tears came from weakness, because they had had no 
food, not even one little bit of bread for several days, and 
were starving still. They told me that the Germans had 
shelled Bohain just before I came in, and had killed one 
girl and a man, and that the night before they had fired gas 
shells and poisoned four people so that they had died. 

One girl told me the strangest thing. "When the Eng- 
lish were drawing near to Bohain," she said, "all the Ger- 
man soldiers began to laugh and shout. Some of them 
called out to me: The English will soon be here. They 
are already at Fremont. Bravo! The war will soon be 
over.' They had only one thought, monsieur. It was to 
get taken prisoner by the English so that they should have 
good food, for they are starving and never get enough to 
eat, and they want the war to be over quickly and do not 
mind how." 

HI 

The Last Battle of Flanders 

October 15 
There is no sign of an impending armistice on the West- 
ern Front this morning, and the only hint of its possibilit} 



V 



190 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

was in the speech of German prisoners brought down by 
AlHed troops in the new attack launched this morning in 
Flanders. 

It was an international battle up there, between Menin 
and the coast, and above all it was the Belgians' day out, 
and once again the Belgian Army was in the field inspired 
with an ambition to advance into their own country and to 
be the first to carry tidings of liberation to their people. 

The first advance in Flanders had been made on Sep- 
tember 28 when our Second Army attacked without pre- 
liminary bombardment on a front of four and a half miles 
south of the Ypres-Zonnebeke road. The 14th, 35th, 29th, 
and 9th Divisions delivered the initial assault, supported in 
later stages of the battle by the 41st and 36th Divisions. 
On the left the Belgian army attacked as far north as Dix- 
mude. The enemy had been holding his position thinly, 
and by the end of the day we had driven them far afield 
and had captured Kortevilde, Zandvoorde, and Beclelaere. 

To me, a spectator of to-day's drama, which is intensi- 
fied in interest because of the peace proposals, which prom- 
ise a swift ending to this war, it was strange to be in Flan- 
ders again after following the campaign down south by 
Cambrai and St.-Quentin. I had an idea then that I 
should never see Flemish battlefields again under fire, but 
this morning I went out through Ypres, as on so many 
days last year, and saw again those ruins which are built 
into the fabric of our history and of our most tragic mem- 
ories in this war, and went across those frightful fields up 
through Potije and Zonnebeke, past Inverness Copse and 
Glencorse Wood, up to Broodseinde and the crest of 
Passchendaele, still littered with the wreckage of those 
German pill-boxes for which our men fought so desper- 
ately, and still pitted with those shell-holes and craters ovei 
which our men stumbled in bogs and lakes on their way to 
the high ridges. 

Time was, and not so long ago, when one could not put 
one's nose into Ypres or out of it without having a German 



THE LAST PHASE 191 

5.9 burst extremely close, and when there was fierce and 
terrible harassing fire over all this vast belt of country be- 
yond Ypres, and when our gunners below the railway em- 
bankment at Zonnebeke and in bog-holes below Abraham 
Heights and Passchendaele were always being searched for 
by high explosives. To-day, after the German retreat, this 
country has lost its menace, and there are few new shell- 
craters among the old ones, and there is traffic up the roads, 
where men used to walk in single file only under the cover 
of night and then were in danger of death. But they are 
the same old roads in the same old Flanders mud, and it 
was an astonishing sight to-day to see our tide of war 
streaming along those tracks, a great Army on the move, 
across that ravaged land where there is no living tree in 
the charred stumps of woods, and one wide vista of infer- 
nal chaos. 

The scene around Passchendaele and along the whole 
sweep of ridges for many miles is the worst in the world, 
except the way to Bapaume, and in its old solitude it haunted 
one's soul with its foul aspect. But to-day it was redeemed 
by masses of men marching and riding blithely through it, 
and going forward to the flats, elated by a sense of victory, 
certain victory now, of which nothing can rob them, and 
peace not far away. Belgian and French and British gun- 
ners shared the roads with their limbers and transport. 

Our flying men and anti-aircraft gunners had their 
camps among Belgian camps, where men with tasselled caps 
exchanged cigarettes with them, and waved hands to them, 
and shouted out ''AH goes well" as fresh batches of Ger- 
man prisoners came down the boggy tracks. Belgian am- 
bulances and Red Cross cars, like those which, years ago, 
I passed when Dixmude was in flames, were established 
near old German pill-boxes, for which English and Scot- 
tish and Irish soldiers fought terrible battles not long ago. 

French troops were marching forward to drive further 
into the German. lines, and they had the hard look of men 
who have been through all the worst of the war, and now 



192 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

go to claim their victory. "How far to the front?" asked 
a French colonel, leaning forward in his saddle as he passed 
me ; and I said, "I don't know, mon colonel. Things move 
so quickly nowadays, and I hear that our men are going 
on now before Ledeghem." "Nous les aurons,'* laughed a 
gunner, perched on a heavy howitzer, crawling up the road ; 
"we shall have them — before they make this Peace." 

The troops moved forward in an endless tide, a marvel- 
lous sight as one saw their columns winding away over 
this barren land like a long snake in the far distance. Down 
below there was Roulers, where the French were fighting. 
Its church spire tapered above the trees, which were beyond 
the zone of the all-destroying fire. To the right were 
Ledeghem, from which Scottish battalions of the 9th Di- 
vision attacked to-day, and Moorseele, where the 29th and 
36th Divisions were engaged. There was astonishing httle 
shell-fire after the first bombardment, and having heard the 
tumult of great gun-fire in this country day after day and 
month after month last year, I was astounded by the ab- 
sence of this noise, and by the uncanny quietude down 
there in the slopes. 

Behind me were some big howitzers of ours, enormous 
brutes, who lifted up their throats and bellowed every min- 
ute or two, so that one's scalp seemed to be lifted by the 
concussion, and some of our field batteries below Ledeg- 
hem were hard at work ; but it was nothing, nothing at all, 
in comparison with the bombardments that used to continue 
here for days, when 2000 guns of ours used to open fire in 
the mists of davv^n. The Allied troops were working round 
those Flemish villages and towns in the low country, si- 
lently, and what defence the enemy put up was all by ma- 
chine-gun fire from the railway embankments, concrete 
shelters, and strong points hidden in the trees. 

Their wounded and our wounded came back together. 
In several ambulances I saw Germans, French, Belgians, 
English, and Scottish soldiers mixed up as they had been 
picked up from advanced stations. Slogging slowly 



THE LAST PHASE 193 

through the muddy tracks came the walking wounded, Ger- 
man soldiers without escort stumbling stiffly along as 
though weighed down by their heavy helmets amidst groups 
of Belgians with bandaged faces and arms, or coats cut 
away, leaving them bare on one side from shoulder to 
waist. 

Groups of Jocks of the 9th Division lightly hit supported 
each other or sat down in the mud together for a rest on 
the way back to the casualty clearing stations, or discussed 
their fighting with the troops who had been on their right 
by Moorseele and down to Gheluwe. 

It was all the same tale they told. The enemy had put 
up a fight with his machine-guns and then surrendered. 
Scots, with Belgians on their left, had gone fast, smashing 
through first the line of German resistance north of Ledeg- 
hem to St.-Pieter, and getting on to high ground west of 
Winkel-St.-Eloi, with Belgians going grandly on their left 
and coming forward all the time. Troops fighting on the 
outskirts of Moorseele, where the Germans of the ist Ba- 
varian Reserve Division had fought hard against them, had 
strong opposition, but they had taken over 100 prisoners 
from that place already; and, altogether, with their Eng- 
lish and Scottish comrades of their corps, at least 600, as 
I counted roughly for myself, seeing them come back. 

The chief characteristic of this morning's fighting, as 
far as our men were engaged, was the strength with which 
the enemy held his front line. During most of the recent 
battles he has defended his front line lightly, relying upon 
his "main line of resistance" farther back. But this time, 
expecting our attack, he manned his front line quickly, and 
orders were given to his men to hold on to the death. 
Many of them fought with extreme courage, and opposite 
the northern portion of our front their machine-guns rushed 
through our barrage to meet our men in the open. Among 
those who did so wxre those of the ist Bavarian Reserve 
Infantry Division, who fought desperately between Ledeg- 
hem and the Kazelberg. Their support battalion was to 



194 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

have manned the second Hne on the Menin-Roulers railway, 
but our men were too quick for them, and got there first. 

This strength in the front Hne was general along our 
length of attack, and it was not until that was broken that 
our troops could get forward more easily towards the River 
Heule, near Courtrai, where they are confronted by a 
stream ii feet wide, held as a defensive line by the enemy. 
In some places the German soldiers did not fight well, and 
one of their officers remarked, ''What can you expect, when 
they look forward to an armistice in two or three days?" 

One German officer came over, very smartly dressed, and 
said he was wearing his peace clothes. The 6th Cavalry 
Division, which suffered very heavily in the Cambrai fight- 
ing, is engaged on this northern front, and, in spite of their 
losses in prisoners, are called 'The war prolongers" by the 
German line regiments, on account of their moral, or stim- 
mitng, as they call it. 

Some of our troops of the 34th and 30th Divisions at- 
tacking farther south this morning along the line of the 
Lys, met some resistance in the front line, in the neighbour- 
hood of Wervicq, which I saw burning this morning from 
the heights of Passchendaele, a long streamer of smoke 
spreading across the countryside. There was a steady 
sweep of machine-gun fire on them from the other side of 
the Lys, and it was not an easy way along. 

There are as yet no certain numbers of prisoners, but I 
reckon them as about a thousand up to midday, judging 
from those I saw under escort. Most of them were cer- 
tain that an armistice would be arranged within a few days, 
and were rejoiced at the prospect of peace. When some of 
them were told ''that means that Germany is utterly de- 
feated and lost," they said, "that does not matter so long 
as we get Peace, for otherwise we shall be in a worse state." 

There was a group of sixteen officers in one batch, and 
I noticed how smartly they saluted, and it seemed to me 
with them, as with those at Cambrai, that it was the salute 



THE LAST PHASE 195 

of men to their victors, for never in the old days were they 
as punctiHous as this, 

I do not know the exact success of our French Allies on 
our left, but it is reported that they are all round Roulers, 
which they are not entering yet because of explosions, and 
that they are making good progress. I know that the Bel- 
gians have taken many prisoners, because I saw them es- 
corting them back and counting their birds in the cages. 
For the Belgians, above all, it is a day of hope, because they 
see before them as a beckoning finger in the mists the bel- 
fry of Bruges, and, as I have said, they are on their way 
home. 

October i6 
The battle in Flanders, which began yesterday morning 
and is continuing to-day in the direction of Thourout and 
Courtrai, is being fought by combined Belgian, French, and 
British armies under the supreme command of King Albert. 
Our Second Army, under General Sir Herbert Plumer, is 
on the right of this group of armies, with the Belgians on 
the left between Roulers and Menin, and the French are in 
the centre around Roulers itself, which they had the honour 
of taking in touch with the Belgians, again south of 
Thourout. 

This international action gained important success along 
the whole line of attack, and it is interesting that in num- 
ber of prisoners the captures were almost exactly the same 
for the troops of each nation, amounting to about 4000 
yesterday under each flag — that is, to some 12,000 in all. 
Our exact number of prisoners counted yesterday on the 
Second Army front was 131 officers and 3592 men, not 
counting wounded. Our own troops also captured some 50 
guns. 

Yesterday I went into the French area, and while the 
battle was in progress stood by the French officers who 
were watching its progress, as far as any clue could be had 
through the screen of wet mist. A French officer, observ- 



196 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

ing from a pile of ruin, offered me a light from his ciga- 
rette, and, pointing to gun flashes round Roulers, said, "We 
are getting on. If all goes well we shall soon have half 
Belgium. If the enemy does not get out we shall drive him 
out.'' 

It is certain that the enemy did not mean to get out yes- 
terday without a heavy fight for it. I have already told in 
my previous message how on our line of attack he held his 
front far more strongly than usual, putting his weight of 
men there rather than in a main line of resistance farther 
back. It was the same on the Belgian and French front. 
There was severe fighting before the German front lines 
could be broken round Roulers Winkel-St.-Eloi, and other 
places, with Flemish names hard to write and to say, be- 
tween Roulers and Thourout. 

All this country between the Flanders ridges is in the 
flats cut up by small canals and hedges and ditches and ave- 
nues of tall poplar trees, and the enemy had made use of 
these natural features for defensive purposes. His ma- 
chine-gunners lined the ditches under cover of the hedges, 
and had cut down many of the poplars to make barricades 
of tree trunks across the roads, and had smashed the bridges 
and the canals. There were also many pill-boxes, exactly 
similar to those concrete shelters below Passchendaele and 
Pilkem, which our men found such hard nuts to crack in 
the battles of Flanders last year. 

The German machine-gunners, driven from their ditches 
and routed out of the pill-boxes, then fell back into the 
villages, and used little Flemish houses with red-tiled roofs 
as machine-gun fortresses, from which they fired at close 
range when Belgian, French, and British soldiers forced 
their way into the streets. 

So it was at Roulers, which the French encircled yester- 
day morning, and at Winkel-St.-Eloi, captured by the Bel- 
gians, with Scottish battalions of the 9th Division on their 
right. One by one the German machine-guns were si- 
lenced, and German garrisons surrendered when they found 



THE LAST PHASE 197 

themselves cut off and hopeless. Then from below the 
houses there came up other people, strange to see in bullet- 
swept streets. Old women came up out of their cellars, 
trembling and crying out to the Belgians and French search- 
ing their houses for living Germans over the bodies of the 
dead. Men in peasant clothes, haggard and pale under 
their beards, shouted out hoarse words of welcome and said, 
"We are saved." 

I saw three of these men from Roulers marching back 
with some soldiers to give any information they had which 
might be useful to us, but the old women stayed on to make 
coffee for a few of their rescuers. 

The German prisoners came back in big batches, slouch- 
ing through the mud and staring with curious eyes at the 
tide of our traffic of men and guns, surging up over those 
frightful fields where dead trees stick up like gallows out 
of the ooze and slime. Many of them had fought bravely 
and desperately. Some of them had not fought at all. 
Some of the machine-gunners of the 39th German Division 
on our front surrendered without firing a shot. Some of- 
ficers put up their hands when they saw their men would not 
fight, and said, ''AH is lost." 

One body of our men captured 9 officers and 304 men 
when their own strength at this place, near Wervicq, was 
only 420 and their casualties 16. 

The German soldiers seemed to know everything about 
recent events, and their constant refrain was, "We want 
Peace." They are persuaded that everything is over, and 
asked whether the Armistice would be signed to-night. The 
Kaiser must go, they said, and w^hen asked about the Crown 
Prince, shrugged their shoulders and said, ''The Crown 
Prince does not count. Nobody will bother about him." 
Some of them even made jokes about the fate of Germany, 
and when some of us said, "What about 'Deutschland iiber 
Alles'?" they said, "Now Germany is the under-dog." 

This morning the advance of the Groupement des Armees 
de Flandres, as King Albert's group of armies is called, 



198 . THE WAY TO VICTORY 

continued all along the line, the French and Belgians going 
forward closer to Thourout, and the British striking closer 
to Courtrai and Comines. Some of our infantry have 
crossed the Lys Canal below Comines, near Warneton, and 
others are driving slowly forward in touch with the re- 
treating rear-guards. Our men are working without the 
help of Tanks, which would find bad country to cross in 
this low and swampy ground, but the French have many of 
their own Tanks, which have been of great service to the 
infantry. The light Renauds of the French Tank Corps 
cruised forv/ard like destroyers and struck terror among 
the German machine-gunners, whose emplacements were 
outflanked by them.> 

There is hardly any need for me to point out the sig- 
nificance of this new campaign. A glance at the map will 
explain it more than many words. Our combined advance 
has already become a threat to the Germans on the coast 
between Nieuport and Ostend, so that they must withdraw 
from the narrow corridor or have the door slammed upon 
them. Farther south our advance towards Courtrai puts 
the enemy into a deep pocket at Lille and the great manu- 
facturing suburbs of Tourcoing and Roubaix, while south 
again Douai is almost encircled, now that our men are 
north of it at Flers and south of it beyond Cambrai. All 
this northern part of France and Belgium is, therefore, un- 
safe for the enemy, and if he does not withdraw as quickly 
as can be he may be caught, not in one trap, but in sev- 
eral, with losses in men and material which will increase 
the ruin of his armies. 

That is the military side of things, but I confess that 
now I am more interested in the psychology of those last 
reserves of the German armies in the field, who find them- 
selves a rear-guard of despair, the last counters in the dread- 
ful gamble for world-power which was played by their Em- 
peror and chiefs and lost legions, whose only chance of 
escape is by surrender. 

There is no doubt that they are clinging for the moment 



THE LAST PHASE 199 

to the hope of an armistice which will end their misery. 
It is due to queer things working in the brains of these 
men that when a French colonel entered Roulers he found 
some German soldiers sitting round a piano in a cellar 
with Flemish peasants singing — of all songs — 'Ta Mar- 
seillaise.'* 

October 17 
Up in Flanders, where the war began — began at least for 
us and the French after the gates of Belgium had been 
smashed wide open by the invading army — there is now a 
movement of massed armies towards the end of the war. 

By the steady pressure of Belgian, French, and British 
troops under the command of King Albert the Germans are 
being driven back from places which were on their main 
lines of communication between the coast and their cen- 
tre, and now being lost to them, are like open doors into 
their back parlours. The Belgian cavalry to-day are re- 
ported to be working round Thielt, sixteen miles from 
Ghent. French entered Lichtervelde this morning and their 
patrols are about Thourout, ten miles from Bruges. Ostend 
is almost within sight. 

Knowing his inevitable withdrawal is at hand from this 
western part of Belgium, the Germans are not inclined to 
give battle here on a big scale, and their rear guards are 
being sacrificed to gain time for the main retreat. 

Farther south, where our own Second Army troops are 
fighting on the right of the Belgians and French in this 
"group of the armies of Flanders," commanded by the 
Belgian King, the enemy is gradually finding himself in 
the far-flung loop of attack which, by our capture of the 
outskirts of Courtrai last night, following our steady ad- 
vance north and east of Cambrai and Douai, which was en- 
tered by our 8th Division, is gradually encircling a large 
territory of northern France, containing the great textile 
and manufacturing cities of Lille, Tourcoing, and Roubaix, 



200 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

from which so much of the wealth of France flowed in time 
of peace. 

This morning, at various points in that wide half-circle, 
our troops of the 34th and 30th Divisions tightened its loop 
and drew it closer to those cities. They crossed the canal 
south of Menin by the fine gallantry of some Engineers 
who bridged the canal during the night, and so penetrated 
the town of Halluin, three miles north of Tourcoing, the 
enormous suburb of Lille itself. Menin was entered by 
patrols in the early morning, and taken by our troops with- 
out more fighting. 

South of the canal we have gained the slopes of the 
high ground called the Paulbucq, 3000 yards south-east of 
Wervicq. We have pushed our line farther east from 
Armentieres, and then go south to Pont-a-Vendin, and on 
the east side of the Haute-Deule Canal, where several vil- 
lages were captured yesterday by the 57th and 59th Divi- 
sions, bringing us very close to the southern and western 
sides of Lille. All this means that we are gradually clos- 
ing in upon those immense towns where during all the years 
of this war the enemy had many of his headquarter estab- 
lishments and cowed great populations of civilians. 

In the first wild stampede of panic-stricken people when 
the enemy's columns struck through Belgium towards the 
northern edge of France, I saw the crowds of refugees 
who poured down to Calais from Lille and its suburbs, and 
in those days of August, 1914, it looked as if the world 
had been tipped on end and that nations were falling over 
their boundaries. They were the lucky ones who escaped 
in time. But tens of thousands were not quick enough, or 
by poverty were unable to leave, or thought the war would 
end so quickly that they could stay without much misery. 

During recent days there has been another exodus from 
Lille, Tourcoing, and Roubaix; all men and boys between 
sixteen and sixty have been driven farther back, so that 
when we take Lille they will not be there to increase the 
number of soldiers on our side or our power of labour. 



THE LAST PHASE 201 

They are the forced labourers of the enemy, building new 
lines of defence before his frontiers in case we do not grant 
him peace. 

But in Lille and those other towns there are large popu- 
lations of old people and women and children, and they 
must now be dreaming of the deliverance which is at hand, 
and yearning for the days to go quick and quicker, when 
at last they shall be free of German rule, and of that night- 
mare of laws and punishments and oppressions which has 
worn them down through all these years. 

No message comes to us from those excited hearts. 
There is still a barrier of machine-guns between us and 
them, and it is only by our meetings with other people whom 
we have liberated in recent days in those villages south of 
Cambrai and at Roulers, and in many farmsteads where 
our men have found them during the last day or two near 
Courtrai and Menin, that we may guess how they are stirred 
by the enormous hope and belief that all their patience 
through four long years, all their courage, which often 
was at fainting-point, all their wounds of pride and their 
lean, grey days of waiting for the war to end, will at last 
be rewarded by liberty and new hfe on our side of the line. 

Not only in Lille and its surrounding towns, but in 
Ghent and Bruges, large numbers of people must be watch- 
ing the lights in the sky at night, seeing them come nearer 
as our loop of fire is drawn closer to them, and laughing 
or weeping, according to their mood, because the flashes 
of Belgian and French and British guns, brighter and closer 
each night, are messages to them of the rescue that is near 
at hand. They may have many days and, perhaps, weeks, 
to wait still, before the enemy makes his flight from their 
towns, but they know now that the end of their agony is 
not far away. 

The German Government has issued a statement that 
these people are becoming excited by the fear of bombard- 
ment. But we are sweeping on beyond the towns, and they 
may fall into our hands by the flight of their garrison, who 



^02 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

must already be preparing to go. They are going now 
from the small towns and villages which our men took 
yesterday and to-day w^ithout hard fighting, and their fringe 
of machine-gunners is withdrawn as soon as our men press 
forward, if there is time to escape death or capture. All 
along the line this is now the condition of our Allied drive 
in Flanders, and the enemy is engaged in a wide rear-guard 
action, avoiding battle except in places vital to the safety 
of his retreat. 

Prisoners taken lately deny any plan of general destruc- 
tion, and say 'that they are ordered to destroy only build- 
ings of military importance. No such plea could be given 
in the case of buildings I saw destroyed immediately be- 
'fore the German retreat on the south side of Cambrai and 
Le Cateau, but Roulers is still in fair condition, and apart 
from bedding and linen, has not been looted in so whole- 
sale a way as Cambrai and other places. 

Many prisoners arrive in our lines with pamphlets about 
the German proposal for an armistice, issued to them offi- 
cially, and bidding them keep up their hearts, because the 
war will soon be over. They believe that, and if their be- 
lief totters their spirit also will fall into deeper depths of 
despair. That I think, will happen throughout their army, 
but whether, after that, they will stiffen or weaken, I can- 
not guess. 

Things should move quickly in the north, now that the 
French and Belgian cavalry are operating around Thourout 
and Thielt. I saw the French cavalry riding over the 
Flanders ridges, with their lances high and their steel 
casques wet in the mist, and their lean horses at the gallop 
as they neared the lines. It was a wonderful and stirring 
sight, for all the men looked fine soldiers, hard as steel, 
and they stared forward through the mists to the great ad- 
venture before them, when they should ride back through 
north France and Belgium with the German army in re- 
treat before them. 



THE LAST PHASE 203 

October i8 
The enemy has abandoned Lille and Tourcoing, those great 
industrial towns of northern France which he held so long 
as his trump cards in the devil's gamble of this war, and 
we are following him up. We have taken Lombartzyde 
on the coast, and have captured Ostend. From one end 
of the line to the other the German armies are in retreat 
from great portions of France and Belgium, and it is a, 
landslide of all their ambitions and their military power. 

To-day I have seen scenes of history of which many peo- 
ple have been dreaming through all these years of war, 
until at last they were sick with deferred hope. I have 
seen Belgian and French soldiers riding through liberated 
towns, cheered by people who have been prisoners of war 
in their own houses for all these dreary years, under hostile 
rule which was sometimes cruel and always hard, so that 
their joy now is wonderful to see and makes something 
break in one's heart at the sight of it, because one under- 
stands by these women's faces, by the light in the chil- 
dren's eyes, and by the tears of old, gnarled men, what 
this rescue means to them and what they have suffered. 

In Lille the first news of the enemy's flight was received 
by our airmen to-day, who saw people signalling to them 
with their handkerchiefs, waving frantically to give some 
message. Our airmen guessed that it was joyful news, and 
could mean only one thing. After that a civilian came 
over to our Hues and said, "You can go in ; the enemy has 
gone in the night." Our patrols felt forward and encoun- 
tered no opposition. 

This regaining of Lille will be the most wonderful oc- 
currence since the combined offensive of the Allies on the 
Western Front in August last, and is the prize of many vic- 
tories, won by the heroism of young officers and men and 
by the fine strategy of Marshal Foch, whose brain has been 
behind all these movements of men. One feels the horror 
of this war is lifting, and that the iron ramparts of the 
enemy, so strong against us year after year in spite of the 



204 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

desperate efforts of millions of gallant men who dashed 
themselves against those barriers, have yielded at last, and 
that many gates are open for our men to pass through on 
their way to victory. 

This morning I went again over the old belt of battle- 
fields out from Ypres and beyond Passchendaele, through 
which the combined armies of Belgium, France, and Brit- 
ain struggled and surged to keep up with their vanguards. 
Over the shell-craters and the rutted roads, sometimes axle- 
deep in mud, in slow columns of turbulent traffic poured 
our guns and transport of the three nations following up 
the pursuit, bringing up food and ammunition and men, and 
more men. 

The pursuit is not a dashing charge. Men shout to each 
other in three tongues to clear the way, and ease them- 
selves by furious shouts and gusts of laughter, because it 
is all so slow. But it is too fast for the enemy. Before 
he is ready to leave our men are on his heels. Our horse 
artillery is firing along his tracks before he can escape with 
his heavy loads. His rear-guards are captured before the 
main body is out of danger. It is very slow, this pursuit, 
when seen from our side of things, but as quick as a hurry- 
ing death to masses of German soldiers. It quickens be- 
yond the old deep belt of strife, for beyond that there are 
good roads, except where the Germans have blown great 
craters, and this morning I went for many miles through 
country where there are unshelled fields, where there are 
cabbage patches, and neat farmsteads, and cottage gardens, 
and villages with red-tiled roofs, and houses with glass 
windows — unbroken glass, by all the gods!— so that it 
seems like precious jewels to eyes tired of rubbish-heaps 
that were fair towns, like Ypres. 

At Roulers I met some French officers and men who 
fought their way into this town, a fine old Flemish town, 
with a tall belfry and a spacious market square, and many 
old churches, with noble towers. The Germans did not 



THE LAST PHASE 205 

want to leave this place. They fought for it hard, girdling 
it with machine-guns, and having many field batteries to 
protect it. But the French forced their way round on two 
sides, and on the third side a French battalion waited to get 
a signal that they should attack frontally. Some of these 
men were machine-gunners, who had marched thirty-five 
kilometres before reaching their line of attack, and then' 
they had to wait under very fierce shell-fire, but at last they 
sprang up and went forward into Roulers. There was a 
dreadful sweep of bullets in the streets from German ma- 
chine-guns, and one party of them, with a young officer I 
met this morning, came face to face with a field battery in 
the street. The German gunners fired six rounds. Then 
one of them shouted out, "Don't shoot; don't shoot, I am 
an Alsatian," and he made the others surrender and took 
his own lieutenant prisoner. 

As soon as the French entered, the Belgian people 
emerged from their cellars and, with cries of joy, ran 
towards the French soldiers and embraced them. One of- 
ficer I met, a commandant and a most gallant-looking sol- 
dier, was a priest who before the war was canon at the 
Cathedral of Besangon and professor at that college. ''It 
was the first time I had ever been embraced by a girl since 
I became a priest," he told me, laughing, "and I said, 'Hullo, 
my little one, this will never do,' and I pretended to box 
her ears before telling her that I had no right to her kiss. 
But after all it was a kiss of peace, and I was not really 
angry about it." 

The Mayor came rushing up and said, "Be careful, for 
God's sake, this town is mined." And, truly enough, there 
were big charges of dynamite and trench-mortar bombs, 
twenty bombs to each frightful charge, in the belfry and 
under the towers of the other churches and at the cross- 
roads. But by some freak of carelessness, perhaps, be- 
cause they had no other men, the German commander of 
Roulers had left this mining to be done by soldiers who 



206 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

did not carry out their orders, except at the cross-roads 
and under one church tower. The glorious old belfry of 
Roulers still stands. 

And all the town stands so that it is still fair to see from 
the outside, with its beautiful Flemish houses. But each 
^house was gutted before the Germans left. They stripped 
off the panelling, took away the doors and the window- 
panes, and every bit of furniture, so that Roulers is noth- 
ing but a shell, and there is nothing left to the inhabitants. 
The Germans wished to send everybody away, and threat- 
ened to turn them out at the bayonet-point, but many hid 
— one man I met hid for ten days with four comrades in 
the chimney of a factory — and the others refused to go, 
and showed such passionate emotion that the German gar- 
rison was afraid to enforce the order. 

There was an astounding situation at Courtrai to-day. 
Our Irishmen had been feeling their way close to it, with 
sharp fighting at Heule and other places on the north, the 
enemy's rear-guards falling back before them when their 
pressure came too hard, and last night they gained posses- 
sion of that quarter of the town which is divided by the 
canal from the main streets and market-place and the fa- 
mous old belfry which has rung out the history of Courtrai 
for many hundreds of years, in triumph and tragedy. 

Some Engineers tried to gain bridgeheads across the canal 
by building pontoons, while they were swept by machine- 
gun fire from the opposite banks, and succeeded in doing 
this, so that some of our men crossed by much daring and 
in most deadly risk. One officer of ours forced his way 
into a house where there were some Germans with trench- 
mortars, and when he was blown out of one room he went 
into another, and was blown out of that and then into a 
trench near the house. It was far too deadly a place for 
our men to stay in in small numbers, and they were drawn 
back to the west side of the canal, where they remained to- 
day, still holding at least a third of Courtrai on that side. 



THE LAST PHASE 207 

Among those now in the town are the Queen's and the 
Middlesex. 

What makes the astonishing drama here is that Courtrai 
is filled with between 35,000 and 40,000 civilians. There, 
again, the enemy tried to force them to leave, and sent 
away any able-bodied boys and men between fourteen and 
sixty, but could not induce large numbers of others to go, 
now that they knew the English were so close up. 

Many men hid themselves ; others adopted an attitude of 
passive resistance, and the German soldiers were afraid to 
use force. All the women, except a few well-to-do people 
who went away to Brussels, remained to take the risk of 
bombardment, with liberty as the great prize of courage. 
So that vast population is still there, for the most part on 
the other side of the city beyond the canal, waiting and 
watching for the moment when the Germans leave and 
our troops enter to rescue them. But from the west side 
of the canal many people are coming through our lines, 
and our machine-gunners, lying in ditches and behind walls 
and in newly dug trenches, see women with perambulators 
coming towards them, and old women hobbling up with 
children at their skirts, and men trudging slowly among 
the patter of machine-gun bullets. They tell the tale of 
their sufferings like those others I have seen, but they have 
the hope that their beautiful old city will not be destroyed, 
because the German soldiers themselves say that they will 
not blow it up, in spite of orders. 

It has been a wonderful day in this war, and it will be 
followed by others, when our AUied troops will enter many 
historic towns and give back to France and Belgium much 
of the country that has been so long divorced from them. 
The enemy's retreat will now go fast, and from hundreds 
of thousands of hearts, scarred, if not broken, by this war's 
long agony, there is going up a cry of joy, because the 
enemy is departing from them and liberty is theirs again, 
and tidings of those they love on our side of the lines, and 
peace for them however long the war may last. 



208 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

IV 

The Entry into Lille 

October 19 
To go into Lille this morning was as good as anything that 
can come to a man who has seen four years of war, and I 
am glad that I have lived to see the liberation of that city. 
I saw the joy of hundreds of thousands of people, who, 
during all those four years, have suffered tragic things, un- 
forgettable outrages, to their liberty and spirit, and have 
dwelt under a dark spell of fear, and have waited month 
after month, year after year, with a faith that sometimes 
weakened but never died, for the rescue that has now come 
to them. It seems a miracle to them now that it has come 
suddenly, and they fill their streets like people in a dream, 
hugging their gladness, yet almost afraid that it is unreal, 
and that they may wake again to find swarms of field- 
grey men about them, and guns in their gardens, and Ger- 
man law hard upon them. 

I went into Lille this morning very early, but the streets 
were already thronged with people, with well-dressed 
' women and children, and men of all ages in black coats, 
such as one sees outside the war zone, and never before this 
within such close sound of guns. It is a fine city, with broad 
avenues and streets, and parks where all the leaves are 
turned to crinkled gold, and everywhere it was draped with 
the flags of England and France. They were flags which 
these people had hidden until this day should come, hidden 
carefully, for it was prison for any French civilian dis- 
covered with such symbols, and now they waved from every 
balcony. Around the city all the bridges have been blown 
up — the last act of the enemy at half-past one yesterday 
morning before his flight, and most of our troops were 
still on the west and south side of the canal and had not 
entered the city. But they had built foot-bridges here and 
there, and I crossed on one and walked into the heart of 



THE LAST PHASE 209 

people who were ready to give a warm welcome to any Eng- 
lishman in khaki. They opened their arms in a great em- 
brace of gratitude and love for those who have helped 
to rescue them from their bondage, and I saw the joy of 
the vast crowds, and the light in the thousands of eyes was 
like sunlight about one, and in a few hours one made hun- 
dreds of friends, who thrust gifts into one's hands and 
poured out their emotion in words of utter simplicity and 
truth, and thanked one poor individual as though he were 
all an army and had done this thing alone. It was over- 
whelming and uplifting. 

Before I had gone far up the first avenue of Lille I was 
surrounded by a great crowd. A lady broke through the 
ring, and, clasping both hands, said, "1 embrace you for the 
gladness you have brought us." She kissed me on both 
cheeks, and it was the signal for general embraces. Pretty 
girls came forward and offered their cheeks, and small 
boys pushed through to kiss a man bending down to them, 
and old men put their hands on one's shoulders and touched 
one's face with their grizzled moustaches, and mothers held 
up their children to be kissed. This did not last for a few 
minutes ; it lasted all the time I was in Lille — for hours. 

Tens of thousands of people were in the streets, and my 
hands were clasped by many hundreds of them, by all close 
enough to take my hand. Children walked hand in hand 
with me for a little way, as though they had known me for 
years, and talked all the time of their gladness because 
the Germans had gone. Then other children took their 
places and other groups gathered and one was closed in by 
new crowds, who seized one's hands and cried, ''Welcome, 
welcome. Long live England." Sometimes the same 
faces reappeared. One continued conversations begun at 
one end of the street. One made closer friends with peo- 
ple who had given all their friendship, offered all hospital- 
ity after one minute. 

''Every one began their conversation in English, though 
most of them finished in French. "Good morning," "Good 



210 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

day,'* "How are you?" *'We are very glad to see you," 
''We have great joy to-day." For everybody in Lille has 
been learning these words, so that they might say them 
when this day of deliverance came, and now they said them 
with wonderful gladness. 

But many times in the crowds I heard English voices, 
and ladies came forward a little, and groups parted so that 
we might talk. They had been caught in Lille when the 
Germans came, and had suffered this four years' agony. 
"We have longed for this day," said one of them, *'and now 
it is like a dream. We can hardly believe that all those 
grey men have gone, and that we are free." 

Several of them spoke of two English women who have 
done splendid work in Lille for English prisoners — Miss 
Wood and Miss Butler, who devoted themselves to help 
men who were helpless, and whose sufferings, as I shall 
have to tell, were frightful. 

There are nearly a hundred English people now in Lille, 
and I think I must have met half of them to-day here and 
there in crowds, for just a clasp of hands and a word or 
two. There were English wives of French officers, and 
English schoolgirls and little governesses. And they were 
out in the streets with flowers and flags. Some of these 
flowers lie beside me as I write, and next to them cigars 
and cigarettes and little cakes, thrust into my hands by 
people with a light in their eyes, the light that was better 
than sunshine in the heart of Lille. 

I see all these figures again as I write. A little boy 
dressed as a Zouave, with a great tricolour waving above 
his yellow hair. Two sisters and two brothers, who kept 
close, telHng all the tale of their four years' life in Lille, 
straightly as to an elder brother, laughing a little now and 
then at all their sufferings and all their fears now that the 
spell has been lifted. 

An American doctor of Lille, who took me into his 
house, where I sat in a pretty salon and drank a glass of 
wine with him and saw his secret cupboard, where he had 



THE LAST PHASE 211 

hidden his brass ornaments from the enemy who had de- 
manded every scrap of brass in Lille, and in these apart- 
ments as elegant as any in London or Paris, as though a 
thousand miles remote from war though only a mile or two, 
I now heard many things of German brutality and Ger- 
man oppression and the tragedy of the besieged city. 

Then there was the English clergyman, who for four 
years has ministered to the English wounded and recited 
prayers over English dead. Mr. Moore is his name, and 
his housekeeper is Miss Browne, of Beverley, in York- 
shire, and his cat is called ''Bunny," and he has people in 
England who will be glad to hear, after all this time, that 
clergyman and housekeeper and cat have survived the or- 
deal of war all this time. It is strange how quickly one 
learns little things like that in Lille, because every one is 
one's friend. 

To those people it was wonderful that they have regained 
their liberty by the arrival of British troops — there are 
Lancashire men of the 57th and 59th Divisions in Lille 
to-day — but it is no less astonishing to us to go inside that 
city — in twenty minutes by motor-car from our old lines 
at Armentieres. I passed through Armentieres to-day, a 
mass of shapeless ruin, and thought of all the death that 
has been there while Lille remained an unattainable place. 

I wonder if any one of our sentries in the trenches by 
Chapelle Armentieres ever established spiritual contact with 
that city, full of human yearning, as he stared over the 
parapet and saw through the mists the tall chimneys of 
Lille. Women lay awake, as they told me to-day, and cried 
out, 'When will the EngUsh come?" Children wept them- 
selves to sleep, as their mothers told me this morning, be- 
cause another day had passed and the English had not come. 
"We had so long to wait for you, so very long," said many 
of these people to-day. 

After the first terror of the German occupation and the 
first nagging of the law, which regulated all their lives, 



Sl^ THE WAY TO VICTORY 

forbade them to be out in the streets after eight o'clock in 
the evening, and shut them up in their houses Hke naughty 
children at three in the afternoon when the German com- 
mandant was annoyed with some complaint, one of their 
worst days came when just before Easter 19 16, 8000 young 
women of Lille were forcibly seized and sent away to work 
in the fields hundreds of miles from their homes. 

It was a reign of terror for every girl in Lille and for 
her parents. Different quarters in the town were chosen 
for this conscription of the girls, and machine-guns were 
posted at each end of the street, and families were ordered 
to gather in the doorways, when German officers came 
round and made an arbitrary choice, saying to one girl, 
"You!" and to another, ''You!" and then ordered their 
men to take them. 

Mr. Moore, a clergyman, told me that some girls he 
knew were dragged out of their beds and carried scream- 
ing away. They were girls in all conditions of life, and 
a young one I met to-day told me that she was chosen, but 
escaped by threatening to kill herself rather than go. For 
it was to be a life of misery and horror to any girl of de- 
cent instincts. 

One of them who was taken and spent six months in 
this forced labour told me that she had no change of linen 
all that time, and slept on a truss of straw in an old barn, 
at first with men who were put into the same barn with 
them, and then only with women. They never had enough 
to eat in the early days, though food was better later, and 
many of these girls fell ill from hunger, and their brothers, 
who were also taken, suffered more. Unspeakable things 
happened, and there is no forgiveness in the hearts of those 
who suffered them. 

That was the first exodus from Lille, and the second 
happened twelve days later when 12,000 men and boys were 
sent away farther into the German lines, so that their la- 
bour should not be given us. ''I wept when my poor boy 



THE LAST PHASE 213 

was taken/' said a lady this morning. "He was only four- 
teen, and such a child in his heart." They were laden with 
heavy packs, and kept in the citadel for two nights before 
leaving, with little food, and when they were assembled 
their sisters and mothers walked with them as far as al- 
lowed, weeping and crying, and boys and men tried in vain 
to hide their own tears, and it was a breaking of hearts. 
More than two years ago a German Commission visited 
Lille, and all the machinery was removed from the great 
textile factories which made the wealth of the city, with 
that of Roubaix and Tourcoing. 

Millions of pounds' worth of machinery were taken, and 
what could not be taken was smashed. It was a deliber- 
ate plan to kill the industry of northern France. 

A thousand times to-day I heard the words : ''Mon- 
sieur, they are robbers. They stole everything we had 
worth anything to them — our brass, our metal of all kinds, 
our linen, clocks, draperies. They even took the bells out 
of our churches, and that is why there are no bells ringing 
to-day because of our deliverance." 

Among the worst cruelties done by the Germans was 
their treatment of our prisoners. From Mr. Moore, a 
clergyman, and from the American doctor and from other 
witnesses I heard dreadful things of our men's sufferings. 
Most of them were kept in the citadel at Mons-en-Baroeul, 
outside Kity, and from that place drafted to dig trenches. 
There were about 800 of them there at a time, and it was 
said by Mr. Moore to be "a Black Hole of Calcutta. They 
were always half-starved, so that they were almost too weak 
to walk." 

"I looked into young faces," said the clergyman, "and 
thought, 'I shall be called to bury you in a day or two.' " 
Frenchwomen smuggled bread to them at great risk of im- 
prisonment, and sometimes old German Landsturm men 
turned their heads away and encouraged this, in disobedi- 
ence to orders. The sick and wounded were tended by 



214 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

Sisters of Charity and French ladies, who waited on them 
and saw frightful things without flinching, because of their 
courage. ''We owe a big debt to those women," said Mr. 
Moore, ''and England should be grateful to them." 

One does not wish, at this stage of the war, to stir up 
the passion and desire for revenge — God knows there is no 
need of that — but these things must be written in history, 
and I write them now, knowing their truth. In this city 
of Lille I have heard a thousand things of tragedy, even in 
one day's visit. 

"We gave ourselves up for lost," some of the people told 
me. "It seemed that all our faith and all our patience 
had been in vain. We cried out to God in despair. But 
that lasted only a little while. We steeled ourselves again, 
and said, 'France and England cannot be beaten. We must 
win in the end.' And your men helped us. Your pris- 
oners were brought through our streets, muddy, exhausted, 
covered with blood some of them, but they held their heads 
high, so proudly, oh, so proudly, and some of them said as 
they passed, 'It's all right. We shall have them yet. We 
shall come back on them.' Then we said, 'If those boys 
speak like that, after all they have suffered, we must not 
lose heart,' and we were comforted." 

Worse even than the treatment of British prisoners was 
that of the Russians. "Oh, they were treated like dogs," 
said one girl; and many other people told me so. "They 
were treated like brute beasts," said another. 

Two hundred and forty British soldiers lie buried in 
Lille, but 3000 Germans lie buried there, too. "Once, when 
I was burying three of our men," said Mr. Moore, "the 
German pastor was burying seventy-six of his own sol- 
diers." 

The American doctor was friendly with a young Ger- 
man who had an English mother and was a nice fellow, and 
it was he who brought tidings of strange things about to 
happen. 



THE LAST PHASE 215 

It was past midnight on September 31 that the doctor 
heard a ringing at his door-bell. He went down, fright- 
ened — a sudden summons like that was always frightening 
— ^and opened the door and saw his friend. 

"What are you doing at this hour?" he asked. 

The young German was white and haggard. "I must 
tell you a strange secret," he said in a whisper. *'l prom- 
ised to let you know when to leave in case Lille were aban- 
doned by us and there was risk of bombardment. That 
time has come. To-night 15,000 men are leaving Lille, 
and in a little while it will be evacuated." 

There were other signs of approaching flight under the 
pressure of the British troops. All the bridges were mined. 
German guns were placed on the inner side of the canal 
and fired to the British lines, which seemed to come nearer 
every day judging by the roar of the cannonade. 

'The English are coming," said the people of Lille, and 
held their hands to their throats, and could hardly breathe 
because of their excitement. They were sick and white 
with hope. And so it happened yesterday, and to-day I 
went into Lille, but even now many, like those I met, can 
hardly believe that all this is true. There are no bells ring- 
ing for joy in Lille, because the belfries have been robbed, 
but every human being in that city, or almost every one 
— for perhaps there are some poor creatures too beaten by 
life's ironies even for the joy of deliverance — is warmed 
by the fire of spiritual gladness, so that in a few hours they 
have been repaid for all their cold days when they sat in 
Lille without coal and very little food, and hope that had 
worn rather thin, and for the tears they have shed and the 
patience with which they stifled their impatience, burning 
like a fever in them. Lille is a city of splendid thanks- 
giving, and the name of England is spoken on the lips of 
its people and of its children as a magic word to which 
they owe their rescue. In Lille it is good to be an English- 
man and to wear a coat of khaki. 



216 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

V 

ostend and the coast 

October 21 
At Ostend there are 25,000 out of 45,000 people still liv- 
ing in the town, and all of them were massed on the sea- 
front when Sir Roger Keyes landed from his flagship, and 
when he went on shore in a motor launch, which put off 
from a destroyer, with the King and Queen of the Bel- 
gians, who were greeted with overwhelming enthusiasm. 

The last Germans left Ostend at nine o'clock last Thurs- 
day morning, but they still had machine-guns on the out- 
skirts, by the gas factory, and the port was still within 
range of the German guns when the King and Queen landed 
and went through the streets, so closely pressed by cheer- 
ing crowds eager to touch them and to kiss their hands 
that they could hardly move. 

Our gallant old Vindictive lies aslant across the Mole, 
and the enemy before leaving sank three more vessels, in- 
cluding a mail steamer and dredger, in order to block up 
the fairway, but there is still room for small craft to pass. 
The town is but little damaged, and hotels like the Con- 
tinental, Savoy, and Phare, and the great Kursaal, so fa- 
miliar to British tourists before the war, are still standing. 

All the harbour works, like the Estacade or Mole and the 
sea-front, have been elaborately organized for defensive 
purposes. The Mole itself is one vast series of dug-outs, 
communication trenches, and tunnels, and there are con- 
crete block-houses all the way between the Kursaal and 
Hotel du Phare, and concrete shelters and defences were 
made right through the Hotel Continental. 

The Germans had a sudden panic that we intended a 
landing with Tanks from flat-bottom barges during the 
Battle of Flanders — an idea that was perhaps not alto- 
gether wide of the mark — and they prepared very late in 



THE LAST PHASE 217 

the day an astounding system of anti-Tank defences to 
frustrate this possibility. Then a few weeks ago the Ger- 
man forces at Ostend saw themselves threatened by the 
menace of our advance, and prepared in desperate haste for 
flight. Their real panic began on October i, when they 
began an orgy of destruction and the removal of their own 
works, upon which they had spent years of labour at enor- 
mous cost, for the purpose of their submarine warfare. 

Ostend was the main submarine base, and they built 
enormous workshops and sheds in basins and docks for ac- 
commodation and repairing of these undersea craft. They 
had thousands of men engaged there, masses of machinery 
and plant, and it was in those works that all their hopes lay 
of reducing the British Empire to impotence by ruthless 
submarine activity. 

Our Royal Naval Air Service, as it was then before amal- 
gamation in our Royal Air Force, did a great deal to smash 
these ambitions by ceaseless bombing. As I have written 
more than once in months past, the pilots and crews of our 
big Handley Page machines never left Ostend alone, and 
poured bombs over the submarine workshops night after 
night, doing enormous damage, so that, as I could see by 
aerial photographs, many basins were abandoned, many 
great sheds destroyed and submarines refitting or repair- 
ing had to creep farther back into other basins, which in 
turn were attacked. By day ordinary aircraft took up the 
work of the night raiders, and dropped smaller bombs and 
kept the German engineers in a state of terror. But for 
all that there was still a mass of valuable machinery in these 
works, and on October i gangs of German marines were 
employed to remove it, and to destroy what they could not 
get away. For two days this activity went on, while large 
numbers of troops were evacuated from the town and only 
rear-guards left. It is evident that the Germans expected 
our arrival at any hour, but when a few days passed with- 
out this happening the labour parties returned to carry out 
more material, and, as I have said, the last parties did not 



gl8 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

leave until Thursday morning, while the town was still 
kept within the range of their guns. 

For a long time during this war Ostend was a favourite 
rest for German troops, and many battalions who had done 
good service in the fighting-lines were sent there in batches 
for special leave. German officers especially made this 
their haunt of gaiety, and there were daily concerts in the 
Kursaal, where many of the best musicians of Germany 
performed, and where, as in time of peace, there were 
women selling programmes and flowers and refreshments. 
That gaiety was restricted when our bombing became too 
severe, and in recent days Ostend was a gloomy place, in 
which German officers talked dismally of their military 
failure, and feared their doom. 

Now by the Belgian capture of Blankenberghe, Zee- 
brugge, and Knocke, which to-day gives them back all the 
coast up to the Dutch frontier, the Germans have lost their 
last chance of naval success, and their dream of gaining 
the Channel ports of France has been shattered, like many 
other false dreams which for a little while seemed in touch 
with reality. 

Meanwhile southwards on the British Front our troops 
continue, not without hard fighting, to hasten the enemy 
retreat from big cities long held in bondage. They are 
now well beyond Tourcoing and Roubaix, those two big 
manufacturing towns so closely linked up with Lille. They 
were East Yorks and other troops of the 31st Division 
who took Tourcoing, and, with the 40th Division, are now 
pushing out to the villages beyond Mouscron, Dottignies, 
and Estanpuis, towards the Scheldt, which comes down 
through Ghent. 

Many German soldiers have hidden themselves in the 
liberated towns, preferring to surrender rather than go on 
fighting — I saw some of those captured like this in Bruges, 
and in Ostend there is a German proclamation asking 
Belgian civilians to denounce the deserters to the Allied 
troops — and they say that in order to make things easy with 



THE LAST PHASE 219 

President Wilson it has been decided to avoid the bombard- 
ment of towns with large populations, though this does not 
apply to villages, which are now being shelled by the enemy, 
so that some civilians have been killed during the last two 
days. 

Life in Roubaix and Tourcoing was as hard as in Lille. 
There are many rich manufacturers in these towns, and 
among them a number of Yorkshire and Lancashire business 
men with great industries, such as a Mr. Richardson who 
had cotton-mills employing nearly 2000 workpeople, before 
it was stripped of all its machinery by the enemy. Food 
could be had by those with money enough to pay for it — 
£2 10^. for a pound of butter, and everything on the same 
scale — but many poor people, I am told, died of starvation, 
and there was general misery. 

At Lille I was told by distinguished citizens that seven 
out of every ten men had been in prison at some time or 
other ''for refusing to pay fines, or for other crimes" against 
German oppression. In Tourcoing it was as bad, and Mr. 
Richardson, the manufacturer I have mentioned, was 
actually taken as hostage and imprisoned six weeks in 
Germany, because, for all fantastic reasons, the French had 
shelled Alexandretta ! For that reason also Roubaix had 
to pay a fine of £6000. 

The following is a translation of a document for the 
forcible conscription of women in Lille and other towns 
in Easter week of 191 6, which will be remembered against 
the Germans for ever: 

*'A11 the inhabitants of households, with the exception of 
children under fourteen years and their mothers, and with 
the exception as well of aged people, must prepare at once 
for their deportation in an hour and a half. An officer will 
make the final decision as to which persons shall be con- 
ducted to the camp of assembly. 

"For this purpose all the inhabitants of households must 
assemble before their {labitation. In case of bad weather 



220 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

it is permitted to remain in the lobby. The house door 
must be kept open. All pleas will be useless. No inhabitant 
of the house — even those who are not to be transported — 
will be permitted to leave the house before eight in the 
morning — German time. 

''Each person will be entitled to ten kilograms of luggage. 
If there is an excess of weight, the entire luggage of such 
person will be refused without any consideration. It is 
absolutely necessary to provide oneself in one's own inter- 
est with utensils for eating and drinking, and also with a 
woollen blanket, good boots, and linen. Every person must 
carry his or her identity card. Any one who endeavours to 
avoid transportation will be ruthlessly punished. — Etappen 
Kommandantur.'' 

The same tragic scenes as in Lille happened when the 
Germans made conscription of the women in Tourcoing and 
Roubaix, with machine-guns posted in the streets and Ger- 
man officers making arbitrary choice of young women and 
girls for forced labour in the fields far from their homes. 
This seizing of girls was done at night without previous 
warning, and the dark horror of it made girls go mad, and 
their shrieks rang down the streets. And even those who 
had the most courage wept bitterly, and great wailing arose 
from mothers and fathers and sisters and children, who 
feared the worst for those who were taken. Even some of 
the German officers revolted from this order, and said, "We 
will not do this filthy work," and some of them then, and 
more later when despair took hold of them, committed 
suicide. 

It is no wonder that there is no pardon in the hearts of 
French and Belgian women for other women of their own 
town who in weakness of character and looseness of heart 
were beguiled into relationship with Germans. A train- 
load of these women left some of the towns I have named 
because they had been seen in intimacy with German of- 
ficers and men, and yesterday at the entrance to Bruges I 



THE LAST PHASE 221 

saw a portrait of a woman nailed up, and was told that it 
was to pillory her name for her unfaithfulness to pride and 
race. That is one of the worst tragedies of war, inevitable 
among war's horrors and pitiful. Let us forget these things 
in the general joy, though they will be remembered while 
history lasts ; but do not let us forget that while many cities 
are being liberated and are full of gladness our soldiers, to 
whom this is largely due, are still facing German gun-fire 
and machine-gun bullets. 

VI 

to courtrai and valenciennes 

October 21 
Our troops are engaged in heavy fighting on the whole 
length of our Front, north-east of Courtrai to south-east 
of Le Cateau, for more than fifty miles, and in spite of the 
enemy's desperate resistance in order to hold the line of the 
Scheldt southward from Ghent, covering Tournai and 
Valenciennes, we are getting close to that canal everywhere, 
and are beyond it between Denain and Le Cateau. 

This morning's advance by our Second and Third Armies 
threatens the crossings of the canal, and the two historic 
cities of Tournai and Valenciennes will soon be within 
our reach. 

20n October 7 operations had been renewed by the 
Fourth Army on a front of about ten miles from Le Cateau 
southwards, with the French First Army attacking west of 
the Sambre and Oise Canal. The troops engaged on our 
front included two American Divisions — the 30th and 27th 
— and our 46th, ist, 6th, 50th, and 66th Divisions. The 
enemy was holding the wooded country east of Bohain and 
the line of the Selle north of it in great strength. For 
several days our troops had very hard and costly fighting, 
but succeeded in driving the enemy across the Sambre and 
Oise at nearly all points south of Catillon.3 



222 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

There was heroic fighting yesterday by English, Scottish, 
and Welsh divisions for the heights above the River Selle, 
and our Tank Corps rendered great service to the infantry 
by getting across to the east flank and destroying many 
German machine-gun nests, in spite of the flooded ground. 
The troops engaged were the 38th (Welsh), 17th, 5th, 
42nd, 62nd, Guards, and 19th Divisions of the Third Army, 
and the 4th Division on the right of the First Army. 

Our Engineers have been wonderfully gallant in their 
work of throwing across pontoon bridges under heavy fire, 
especially under a hail of machine-gun bullets from the 
high ground on the enemy's side, and by their courage our 
field-gunners were able to get across close behind the infan- 
try and open fire on hostile positions at close range. 

On the Third Army Front by the town of Solesmes, 
south of Valenciennes, on the German line of resistance, 
there has been extremely severe fighting, and the enemy 
has massed artillery behind the Scheldt, with which he has 
barraged our line of advance fiercely, using large numbers 
of gas shells in order to soak the woods and villages with 
poison vapour. The valleys of the Avilly and the Selle 
have been choked with this gas, and the German machine- 
gunners have defended their positions stubbornly. Never- 
theless our troops broke down this opposition, and have 
taken many hundreds of prisoners. 

The German casaulties have been heavy, and on one part 
of our Third Army Front 526 German dead were counted, 
last night. The enemy made a strong counter-attack against, 
our Third Army last evening, between five and eight o'clock, 
debouching from the town of Romeries, but our men shat- 
tered it by machine-gun and rifle fire, supported by our field 
artillery. 

East of Courtrai the Second Army resumed its advance 
this morning, and is pushing forward steadily towards the 
Scheldt Canal and taking many little Flemish villages still 
inhabited by civilians crouching in their cellars, while 
machine-guns sweep their streets and shells plough up their 



THE LAST PHASE 223 

fields. That is a pitiful side of this fighting, and this 
morning round Courtrai I passed many groups of Flemish 
peasants, with their babies and old people, passing our guns, 
trekking with wheelbarrows from one village to another in 
search of greater safety, or standing in the fields where our 
artillery was just getting into action, and where new shell- 
craters should have warned them away if they had had more 
knowledge of war. 

I went into Courtrai itself this morning. It has now been 
freed from the enemy. But it was not wholly a joyous 
entry, like that into Lille or Bruges, or other towns where 
civilian crowds have greeted any Englishman with cheers 
and embraces. The people here, 25,000 to 30,000 of them, 
have suffered too much to have any complete reaction yet. 
Some of them called out ''Good morning," and all their men 
doffed their hats to us, but with gravity and a kind of dull- 
ness, like people who have long been stunned by misery. I 
could not wonder at that. I was chilled by the sinister 
spirit of this old city, so beautiful in time of peace with its 
tall belfry of St. -Martin's Church high above its gabled 
houses, and Flemish Town Hall and the broad market-place, 
where six centuries ago English merchants came to buy 
their cloth from Flemish burghers, and where, after the 
Battle of Spurs, many knights, with broken armour and 
tattered plumes, were brought in as prisoners of Flemish 
craftsmen who had fought against them for their liberties. 

Through many centuries of history Courtrai has been a 
famous town in Flanders, with a rich trade in cloth and 
wool, and, from the windows of the houses still standing, 
silken banners were hung to welcome kings like the Fourth 
Edward of England, or on the feast days of the guilds. I 
remembered these things to-day when I went into the city 
across a canal with broken bridges, where two days ago 
there was bloody fighting, and where to-day new pits were 
dug by German shells, and when I went into the Grande 
Place and saw the people standing in their doorways, or 
hurrying to their vaults to escape from shell-fire, I thought 



224 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

of these contrasts of history. Fear was still on the faces 
of men and women, and remembrance of frightful days 
only one day old. 

I have already told how, to the end of last week, our 
troops were fighting on one side of the canal which cuts 
off part of the town, while the enemy was strong in the 
other and larger part beyond the canal, where 25,000 people, 
or more, were shut up with them. That lasted until Friday 
night last, with roar of gun-fire from gardens and court- 
yards and neighbouring fields, and an incessant sweep of 
machine-gun fire down the streets leading to the canal 
side. Late on Friday night this fire slackened off, and on 
Saturday some of our patrols pushed across the river and 
were met by civilians, who said the Germans were on their 
way back. Seven of our men went forward alone, and 
were the first British soldiers to enter the Grande Place, 
and they took the first welcome of the people, which then 
was full of enthusiasm and joy for their liberation. They 
had suffered terrible things, but they thought they were safe 
now. For several days, while the fighting lasted, they had 
lived in their cellars — men, women, and children herded 
together in dark and narrow vaults — waiting there, sleep- 
ing there, eating there, until the air became foul. Some 
people, eager to escape from this confinement, went up into 
the streets and were killed or wounded. The others stayed 
below with the cry of shells overhead and frightful explo- 
sions shaking the earth about them. Then at last that phase 
passed and the Germans left, and they came up into the 
fresh air to greet our troops. But a new phase of fear be- 
gan on Saturday. The enemy was still close about Courtrai 
with his guns and men, and not respecting the town full of 
women and children, as he has done Lille and Tourcoing 
and Bruges, and other towns which he has been forced 
to deliver, he opened a bombardment on the city. He fired 
all through Saturday and all yesterday, and when I went 
in there to-day he had not ceased. I had hardly reached 
the Grande Place before a big shell arrived, bursting some- 



THE LAST PHASE ^25 

where in the streets with a frightful crash, and this was fol- 
lowed by other high velocities. 

The German bombardment has damaged many houses, 
pierced holes in many walls and roofs, and has scarred the 
noble old church of St-Martin, and broken most of its 
windows. But so far no great ruin has been made, and the 
town is still standing with these wounds, and I hope the 
enemy will desist from this useless brutality, which is only 
harmful to non-combatants, as we have no soldiers in the 
city, and all our men are beyond it and around it. 

Most of the inhabitants speak only Flemish, but I had a 
conversation with one man who speaks good French. I 
have heard many passionate things said by people who have 
undergone four years of oppression under German rule, but 
never have I seen so much fire of passion as was in this 
man's eyes, nor heard a voice so vibrant with it. He tried 
to check his emotion, but at every sentence his voice rose 
and thrilled, and he made a terrible denunciation of the 
German race, as he had seen it in Courtrai. 

It was the same story as in the other towns of France 
and Belgium. Courtrai had been robbed of all its copper 
and of all its wool, down to mattresses off the beds, and the 
enemy had loaded it with requisitions and fines, and had 
destroyed all its industrial machinery for cloth-making. 
They did not take all the machines away. They took ham- 
mers and broke them to bits. 

And the German officers were arrogant and brutal to 
people even who received them with courtesy, hiding their 
hatred and coercing themselves to scrupulous politeness. 
They robbed houses of their furniture and valuables. They 
seized the food sent for the citizens by the International 
Relief Committee. They were abominable with the women. 

The last commandant of Courtrai was von Ricthoven, 
father of the famous German aviator, and he was a hard 
man and kept the city under an iron rule. 

*'But all that, thank God, is finished now," said my in- 
formant. As he spoke a monstrous shell came overhead, 



g26 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

but he took no notice of it and said, "All that is finished ; 
we are safe from the enemy's evil ways at last." I confess 
I was not so sure of it, hearing those beastly crashes in 
Courtrai. 

I found one old English lady in the city, or rather, an 
Irish lady, named Miss Mary Cunningham. She is an old 
lady of over seventy, who has lived in Courtrai for twelve 
years, at first in well-to-do circumstances, her father being 
a flax-spinner, but afterwards obliged to earn her living 
by teaching French and English to Flemish pupils. Even 
that failed her after the war, because, as it dragged on, 
English and French did not seem much good to people sur- 
rounded by Germans. So Miss Cunningham is poor now, 
and lives in a tiny house opposite the cathedral, with a cook- 
ing-stove in her parlour, and not much to cook on it, poor 
soul. But she received us as a great lady of the old school 
with most beautiful dignity, undisturbed by ^'noises with- 
out," omnious crashes close at hand, and sounds of break- 
ing glass. She made only one remark, showing that she 
noticed these things. "Do you mind shutting the door, 
my dear? I don't like those bombs coming in." I noticed 
that "bombs," as she called German shells, had already 
broken the front part of her little parlour, and she was very 
close to the danger-point of hostile shell-fire ranged by the 
belfry of Courtrai. She did not say much about the war, 
except when she spoke of the Germans as highway robbers; 
but her mind went back to Ireland and old friends there, 
and her old people. Her grandmother was a Miss Kim- 
mins, the sister of President Wilson's great-grandmother. 
She told us that as a passing thought, but I was startled 
by her words and thought how queer it was that I should 
be sitting with President Wilson's cousin in a little front 
parlour of Courtrai, with Germans not far away and the 
city under shell-fire. I do not know President Wilson, but 
I should be glad if he could hear this old lady, so brave, so 
gracious .in her poverty and danger, with such gallant spirit. 
Courtrai was sinister to-day, and I hated the sight of women 



THE LAST PHASE 227 

and children there still in grave danger. They were going 
to their cellars again as I left, and streets were nearly empty, 
and not a soul passed through the public gardens where 
trees have shed many of their leaves, so that the ground 
is carpeted with red foliage. It has an old-world beauty 
this city, and, perhaps, in a day or two it will be beyond 
the range of hostile guns, so that there will be a spirit of 
peace there again. 

Our men are thrusting the enemy farther away and 
other cities are awaiting liberation with such pent-up 
emotion as we found in Lille. 

October 22 
Our troops, fighting in foul weather and over boggy 
ground, are along the line of the Scheldt Canal in front of 
Tournai and Valenciennes, and farther north also hold the 
west bank of the canal for some distance between Tournai 
and Courtrai. 

From the village of Poedrisch, on the Scheldt, where 
the 41st Division is engaged, our line bends back west- 
wards along another canal known as the Bossuyt-Courtrai 
Canal, which the enemy has defended strongly with barbed 
wire, and is holding in strength with machine-guns. 

We have now reached a stage when the Germans will 
undoubtedly make a stand in order to delay our pursuit, 
and there will be hard fighting for our men before we can 
hope to liberate Tournai and Valenciennes, and drive 
farther east. The enemy has his guns behind the Scheldt, 
and in this way has for the time being some advantage 
over us, as the bringing up of our heavies is very difficult 
over the old battlefields, now in the filthiest conditions of 
mud and swamps. The Germans have also organized the 
trench-mortar defence of the Scheldt, and are firing heavy 
barrages along the opposite banks to prevent our men from 
gaining the bridgeheads. In spite of this our men, in the 
most gallant and stubborn way, have closed in upon the 
Scheldt river and canal except where, on our Second Army 



nS THE WAY TO VICTORY 

Front, east of Courtrai, they have been checked by the 
Bossuyt Canal. 

Yesterday, north of Courtrai, troops of one corps of the 
Second Army captured twenty guns, with their Hmbers and 
ammunition, and one long-range naval gun. They also 
captured two railway trains of one metre gauge. 

Courtrai is still under fire from high-velocity guns, but 
they are not doing much damage, and the civiUans are hap- 
pier than when I saw them yesterday. There is consider- 
able shelling against our troops east of the city and in the 
villages near it. 

On our Fifth Army Front north and south of Tournai 
some of our patrols crossed the Scheldt yesterday at Obi- 
gies, above that city, and at Chin, south of it, but after their 
reconnaissance came back to the west side. The enemy has 
been fighting hard at the village of Froyennes, north of 
Tournai, which still remains in his hands, and at St.-Maur, 
on the south side, which our men have now captured. 

Among the places which have fallen into our hands in 
this advance are the German headquarters formerly used 
by General Sixt von Armin, our antagonist in the battles of 
the Somme, whose report, with its frank criticism of Ger- 
man methods and necessities, revealed for the first time the 
growing weakness of the enemy's fighting machine. The 
German general and his staff seem to have found war a 
thirsty business, for they ordered and received consign- 
ments of wine to the amount of 10,000 bottles, now lying 
empty around these buildings. 

North of Valencinnes, where the Scarpe runs into the 
Scheldt, we have captured the town of St.-Amand, and 
there has been hard fighting in the forest of Vicogne, near 
by. All this district was crowded with civilians who have 
now been liberated, and the First Army, which does not 
include in its boundaries any big manufacturing towns like 
Lille or Roubaix, has rescued 70,000 people from German 
rule. 

The enemy's resistance is increasing along this line, and 



THE LAST PHASE 229 

there has been heavy fighting in the village of Thiant (four 
and a half miles south-west of Valenciennes), where the 
Germans counter-attacked under a violent bombardment 
and forced our troops back to the western side of it. 

Prisoners still crowd back behind our lines, and the 
enemy's strength in man-power has been much weakened 
since October i, apart from his severe losses in dead and 
wounded. 

The Fourth Army, on the southern part of our Front, 
south-east of Cambrai, has taken 18,000 prisoners between 
October i and 20. The Third Army, in the same time, 
has taken 10,000 men and 250 officers. The First Army 
has taken 3500, and our Second and Fifth Armies have 
also piled up this score by many thousands. 

After all that has happened, the German army cannot 
afford this drain upon its strength, and for that reason 
alone must continue to retire, in spite of fierce and resolute 
rear-guard battles. 

The year is waning and the weather is breaking. To- 
day was truly foul in its aspect around Courtrai, with a 
heavy drizzle for hours putting a wet blanket of mist over 
the fields and blotting out all view of villages and towns 
in this country of the lowlands. Our men slogged through 
water pools, trudged down rutty roads with mud splashing 
them to the neck, while lorries surged along broken tracks, 
swung round shell-craters and skirted deep ditches, and 
gun-teams, with all their horses plastered to the ears with 
mud, travelled through the fog to take up new gun posi- 
tions beyond our newly captured towns. Ail this makes 
war difficult and slow, and what is most amazing is the 
speed with which our armies are following up the German 
retreat, like a world on the move, with aerodromes and 
hospitals, telegraphs and transport, headquarter staffs and 
labour companies — all the vast population and mechanism 
which make up modern armies — across battlefields like the 
craters of the moon to country forty miles from their old 
bases. 



230 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

It is a wonderful achievement, due to the industry and 
effort of every single man, from corps commanders to road- 
menders working in the mud. 

One never hears any order given to hurry up or make 
haste. '*Carry on, there," is the usual phrase of an officer, 
with rain dripping down his neck as he stands by a German 
pill-box with a watchful eye on his labour party, but the 
men do whatever job is theirs with a quiet industry which 
helps the Army on, and the man with the shovel as well as 
the man with the rifle is doing his level best to get a move 
on. And that is the way we are moving, and more cities 
are slipping into our hands and the enemy is being hustled 
faster than he wants to go, and cannot stop the weight of 
things bearing down on him with relentless and dreadful 
pressure. 

October 23 
Our men are now in outlying streets of Valenciennes, 
divided from the heart of the city by the Scheldt Canal, 
which is the west boundary of the boulevards. They have 
outposts in the parish of St.-Vast, and at La Sentinelle, 
so that they are able to look down avenues of that old town, 
where many thousands of people are waiting for deliver- 
ance, knowing that the English are at their gates. There 
was not much fighting there this morning, except by bursts 
of machine-gun fire, but south of Valenciennes to the vil- 
lages and woods below Le Cateau on a front of nearly 
twenty miles there was a drive forward by our Third and 
Fourth Armies towards the great forest of Mormal, cover- 
ing many hundreds of acres of dense woodlands, where its 
foliage is now turned to scarlet and gold, like the leaves 
of all the trees in this new battle-ground beyond the belt, 
forty miles deep for hundreds of miles, where autumn 
makes no difference to the landscape, because all is dead. 
Here beyond our liberated towns of Cambrai, Douai, and 
Lille there are many woods and many streams and many 
small ridges, and fields cut up by ditches and hedges, so that 



THE LAST PHASE 231 

it is not easy country through which to fight. The enemy 
has plenty of cover for his men and guns. In the woods 
especially, German machine-gunners can lie in ambush and 
fire until our men are close to them before stealing away 
down glades and hiding behind other trees. So our men 
have to go warily, and rather than penetrate those dense 
woods thick in undergrowth, work round them, dodging 
machine-gun fire and surrounding German rear-guards. 
Near Valenciennes the enemy is filtering out of the big 
forest of Raismes, and our men were able to bite off one- 
half of it, called the Foret de Vicogne, and to advance 
round the rest of it without much resistance or risk. The 
First Army has taken 1300 prisoners to-day by surround- 
ing these woods. To-day the enemy has fought hard to 
hold other woods which at one time formed part of the 
huge forest of Mormal, when French kings used to go 
boar-hunting, but now are isolated copses like Bishop's 
Wood below Le Cateau. 

On our Third Army Front this morning our troops ad- 
vanced on a line of 12,000 yards between Le Cateau and 
Valenciennes to a depth of several miles, in which there are 
many scattered villages among the woodlands, like Vertain 
and Romeries and Beaurain. The Divisions engaged from 
north to south were the 19th, 2nd, 3rd, New Zealand, 37th, 
42nd, 5th, 2 1st, and 33rd. On the second day the 6ist, 
4th, and 51st Divisions extended the line of attack for a 
further five miles northward. Several hamlets were cap- 
tured in spite of machine-gun fire defending them with a 
girdle of bullets, and there was trouble at Vendegie-au- 
Bois, because the Germans had many of these weapons con- 
cealed behind closely growing trees, and high in their 
branches among their tattered foliage. At an early hour 
this morning the men of our 3rd Division had taken 800 
prisoners around St. -Martin and Vertain, and among the 
prisoners taken by these and other men of our Third 
Army this morning eight German divisions have been 
identified — units from battered and mangled German divi- 



232 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

sions who have been fighting for a long time without relief, 
bearing the brunt of these rear-guard actions, behind which 
the enemy is getting back his guns and his material of war. 
On the Fourth Army Front farther south — below Le Ga- 
teau — our troops of the i8th, 25th, 6th, and ist Divisions 
had the help of a small number of Tanks, which had dif- 
ficult country to cross owing to the number of small streams 
and tree-trunk barricades. But they seem to have overcome 
these obstacles and have been reported over the widest 
stream, making their way to the woods, where the Gennan 
machine-gunners lie in ambush. 

The morning started with a thick white fog, so wet and 
dense that when I went through Douai there was no 
visibility whatever for our aeroplanes, however low they 
flew, and they were flying just above the tree-tops. It 
was, I think, in favour of our troops, for it blinded the 
German machine-gunners searching for any movement of 
men. Apart from fog, it was pitch dark when our men 
started, as their attack began at half-past two in some 
places, and earlier in others. It had been a bad night. The 
enemy, anticipating further action to-day, fired a large num- 
ber of gas-shells, and tried to break up the assembling of 
our troops by a heavy barrage from field-guns. Later in 
the morning the fog lifted, and there was a golden day of 
autumn for this conflict in the woods of France. Some of 
our men of the 6th and 25th Divisions worked round 
Bishop's Wood, and airmen report having seen them 
through the village of Pommereuil and on the east side of 
the wood which faces Landrecies, famous in the history 
of the British retreat down from Mons, because of the 
fierce fighting in its streets. One village named Bousies 
was the scene of sharp fighting to-day, and when our men 
of the 1 8th Division closed round it numbers of Germans 
were seen running out of the other side towards the deep 
shelter of the great forest of Mormal. At the same time 
fresh reinforcements of German troops debouched from the 
forest and met the runaways, and there was wild con- 



THE LAST PHASE 23S 

fusion, as some went one way and some another. It is 
probable that there will be strong counter-attacks against 
us in this district. Several tHousands of prisoners must 
have been taken to-day in these operations, and by drawing 
close to the forest of Mormal we are drawing our loop 
tighter round Valenciennes, so that the enemy will have to 
withdraw quickly unless he risks still longer the capture 
of its garrison. 

I am afraid there must be many poor peasants trapped 
along this line of battle, woodcutters crouching in under- 
growth through which machine-gun bullets are slashing, 
and wives of French charcoal-burners, hiding with their 
babes in the cellars of little farmsteads. This has hap- 
pened on the line of our advance beyond the big towns, and 
it is a tragedy which stirs the hearts of our men, who go 
slogging forward day and night, far from our main lines of 
communication, into this great unknown country, which 
they call 'The Blue." They give some of their bully-beef 
to these women and children, though they are ravenously 
hungry after cold nights and exhausting days, and they 
break off hunks of bread and thrust them into the hands 
of boys and girls whose pinched faces tell their tale, though 
they do not beg. Lamentable things are happening in 
some of these places, as at St.-Amand, near Valenciennes, 
which was captured by our cavalry. Into this village the 
enemy collected nearly 1500 people who are suffering from 
what is called Spanish influenza. He turned one building 
into a hospital for them, and crowded it. Then, when he 
left the village to escape* the cavalry which closed round it, 
he shelled it with mustard gas. Most of his shells fell 
around the hospital, though his gunners ought to have 
known and had pity, and these poor, stricken souls who went 
hiding in their cellars, so ill already that many could not 
stand, and some were dying, and are now dead, were aware 
of poisonous vapour stealing into their lungs and burning 
them. That has just happened, and our men are now 
getting these people away in ambulances as fast as they can 



234 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

be brought up, and this morning I saw many hospital 
nurses on their way up to look after these gas patients, 
taking the same risk with brave hearts. 

The problem of the civilian populations liberated by our 
advancing armies is serious, and is adding to the burden of 
our fighting organization. One corps of ours east of Douai 
has 42,000 people on its hands, all destitute, utterly with- 
out means of getting food, in grave peril of starvation, 
unless we send supplies without delay. It is not easy to 
send up supplies for people numbering many divisions of 
troops. Our transport difficulties over the old battlefields 
are already hard enough in supplying our own men, so that 
they may not go hungry in the front line. Add to that 
these thousands of starving souls, and it may be imagined 
that our "O" branch is in a desperate dilemma. But those 
are the dilemmas that bring out the best in our race, and 
our administrative officers are giving themselves no rest in 
order to organize quick relief, and thousands of rations are 
being brought up by men who drive all night without 
taking their share of sleep, by ambulance drivers, who 
volunteer for overtime after long hours of labour at the 
casualty clearing-stations, so that these French women and 
children and these poor old helpless people may not starve 
to death. There is heroic work to cure the tragedy of St.- 
Amand, east of Douai, below Valenciennes. In Douai itself 
there is a tragedy, but of another kind, without a human 
touch. For Douai is dead. In this home of old scholars 
and of many centuries of splendid history and good crafts- 
manship, there is no life except that of a stray cat or two, 
like one I saw affrighted by my footsteps to-day in the 
lonely halls of the Hotel de Ville, where upstairs and down- 
stairs there was an utter loneliness and great silence amidst 
the litter of its archives flung about by German hands in 
search of loot. Where are the people of Douai? No 
single face looked out from the windows of its old houses 
to-day. Its cathedral was a house of silence, strewn with 
gold-worked vestments and altar vessels, and heaps of 



THE LAST PHASE 235 

pipes torn from its great organ. I went into gardens neatly 
tended, with autumn flowers in bloom, and no gardener was 
there among the shrubs. I went into houses where there 
was food in the dishes, but no one to eat it, and into shops 
where the cupboards were open and bare, and all the 
furniture was overturned, and crockery and glass were 
smashed by deliberate industry. It was a noble old city, 
and its gables and old carvings and sixteenth-century front- 
ages would tempt an artist's hands, and everywhere a man 
with a knowledge of history finds the spirit of old France 
calling to him with the voices of its saints and scholars 
and princes and burghers and fair women famous in the 
pages of France. But it is a city of ghosts, and no human 
being is there, and I and two other men to-day were alone 
in it, and its solitude scared us so that we were glad to 
leave. 

October 24 
At least 6000 prisoners were brought behind our lines yes- 
terday as the result of the battle south of Valenciennes, 
and our troops captured many field-guns and some howit- 
zers. I described the character of this battle yesterday 
among woodlands and across streams and through country 
divided by hedges and ditches like our English Home Coun- 
ties. Those woods are all flushed by autumn tints, but 
our men were not observing the beauties of nature. The 
German gun-fire was strong, as in addition to his forward 
batteries the enemy has many long-range guns across the 
Scheldt, and they were ready for a new attack, so that they 
sent down a barrage of high explosives and gas-shells 
before dawn in order to break up our assembling troops. 
Afterwards our men had to face wicked machine-gun fire 
from woods and villages, and from the other side of the 
Harpies river, where they had to make bridges before 
crossing. The Commander-in-Chief yesterday named 
some of our divisions engaged, and we out here know more 
than people at home what their numbers mean. They are 



236 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

the same divisions who since August 8 have been fighting 
their v^ay forward over the old battlefields and then into 
new country in a steady progress that reveals an astounding 
human endurance. The 5th Division, which yesterday 
stormed the village of Beaurain, strongly fortified and stub- 
bornly defended, were with the New Zealanders in all the 
hard fighting for Bapaume, and these men of Devon, Kent, 
and Cornwall have gone forward to new battles on many 
mornings during the last three months as a matter of habit 
as they take their breakfast. The New Zealanders them- 
selves, who with some of our English battalions captured 
Neuvilly yesterday and fought their way to the high ground 
on the north side of the village, have gone a long way 
§ince I met them at Hebuterne in the beginning of August 
— a good forty miles away — and most of the way, with 
only a short respite, they have walked through the tattoo of 
hostile machine-gun fire, and have seldom passed a village 
without having to fight for its ruins. 

The 33rd Division, with the 19th and 6ist Divisions, 
and with the 21st Division alongside them, crossed the 
Harpies stream yesterday and took Vendegies and cleared 
its wood of a hornets' nest of machine-gunners. Both of 
these divisions have been through hard months — the 21st 
and its Yorkshire and Northumberland men fighting all the 
way back on our retreat and all the way forward on our ad- 
vance, and the 33rd did brave work at Meteren, near 
Bailleul, when we were hardest pressed in April of this 
year, and much gallant service since. So it has been with 
the 25th Division, hammered and rehammered in the fires 
of war since March 21, and with the i8th Division and their 
Home County battalions. Yesterday it was the 25th who 
fought through Bishop's Wood, and the iSth who carved 
their way tlirough the enemy for three and a half miles 
and then stormed and captured Bousies. Farther north the 
2nd and 3rd Divisions took Escarmains, those two stub- 
born divisions who helped to save England on the days 
when the German army was very strong against us — the 



THE LAST PHASE 237 

2nd at Bourlon Wood last year, and the 3rd at Arras this 
year and in other places since. 

I have written so often during the four years of the war 
about the glorious old 3rd Division that they should be 
known to the world when they come marching home, and 
the 2nd Division — Royal Fusiliers, Scotsmen, and English 
county troops — have a marvellous record in this war. Well, 
there they all are out there, among the woodlands south of 
Valenciennes, and fighting on to-day as they did yesterday, 
tired because of their progress, covered in mud because 
they have gone through swampy streams, cold at night be- 
cause there is a wet white mist until long after dawn, and 
hungry pretty often, I guess, before the rations come up, 
but still eager to keep moving and to get the Germans on 
the run again. Their advance yesterday makes Valen- 
ciennes more unsafe for the Germans, and brings hope 
nearer to the civilians there, listening to the noise of gun- 
fire very close, and longing for the hour which will open 
their gates across the Scheldt to the first patrols of the men 
in khaki when the grey coats shall have gone for ever. As 
I told yesterday, we have outposts in the suburbs of Valen- 
ciennes, but the Scheldt still bars their way to the heart 
of the city, and the Germans have posted machine-guns in 
many houses to sweep the bridges, so that it will not be easy 
to get in. But all this hard fighting by the enemy on our 
Second, Fifth, First, Third, and Fourth Army Fronts is 
only to gain time. He knows he cannot hold either Valen- 
ciennes or Tournai, and his present purpose is to delay our 
advance until long enough to allow him an orderly retreat. 
Several times we have got ahead of his time-table by 
twenty-four hours, to his heavy cost in men and material, 
and he is struggling to get this time back again for the sake 
of his transport struggling back along the roads, and to 
safeguard his packing up of ammunition dumps, aero- 
dromes, hospitals, camps, and stores. So his High Com- 
mand order the German rear-guards to fight until they are 
dead or captured in places where they must keep the doors 



238 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

shut until the great escape is made. The German machine- 
gunners are obeying this order to the letter with fierce 
courage, and our men have brave soldiers against them. 
Troops of our Second Army, who had established posts on 
the Scheldt east of Roubaix, were heavily shelled this morn- 
ing, and under cover of this barrage the enemy attacked 
and drove back one of these outposts. Again, when our 
men under heavy fire threw two footbridges across the river 
near Heichin and sent patrols across, the German fire be- 
came so intense that their position could not be maintained. 

On our Fifth Army Front there was a lot of harassing 
fire last night by howitzers and field-guns, and on the 
bridgeheads of the Scheldt near Tournai, where the enemy 
is holding out strongly, there was a constant sweep of 
machine-gun fire. The Germans have wired their positions 
in front of Tournai with two thick belts, and many cellars 
have been organized as machine-gun emplacements. In this 
neighbourhood there has been fierce local fighting, with at- 
tacks and counter-attacks, and one small wood has changed 
hands three times, and is again held by the enemy. At 
Froidmont, near Tournai, some of our troops, advancing 
quickly, captured a column of transport, including forty- 
four gun-limbers and forty-six wagons. South of Valen- 
ciennes some of our men, who attacked again this morning 
at four o'clock, succeeded in crossing the stream which 
barred their way, but met with strong resistance in the 
villages of Monchaux and Verchain. All this is in pursu- 
ance of the German plan to gain time for their retreat, 
which is inevitable, in spite of strong rear-guard action. 

One reason for its inevitability is to be seen in our old 
Lys salient, which is now abandoned. It was here that 
the enemy made his drive in April last, and now that the 
ground is in our hands again we have been able to estimate 
the cost to him of that enormous effort. One part of the 
cost is to be found in the German graveyards. Fourteen 
thousand German dead lie in those cemeteries. Reckoning 
in the usual way that five men are wounded to each man 



THE LAST PHASE 239 

killed, and counting in the prisoners we took in this district, 
it works out that the enemy casualties were 120,000 be- 
tween April 9 and August 15, when he had to abandon his 
offensive plans. In addition to that sum of death there is 
to be reckoned the losses to his military machine in am- 
munition and material of war and labour. Enormous quan- 
tities of ammunition were destroyed by our guns and aban- 
doned by him. Many months of work on light railways, 
roads, gun emplacements, hospitals, and camps were lost 
by the failure to carry out his purpose, and this ground 
about the Lys is not only a graveyard of German manhood, 
but of the hopes of the German High Command — the 
wreckage of terrible plans, which were brought to nothing 
by miscalculations in other parts of the problem, making all 
their sum go wrong. 

October 25 
The troops of our First and Third Armies are still fight- 
ing very hard in the woody country south of Valenciennes 
and east of Le Gateau. The Germans are resisting strongly, 
and no single village has fallen into our men's hands with- 
out a separate little battle for it, though during the last 
twenty-four hours they have taken many villages, and each 
small river, like the Harpies and the Ecaillon, tributaries 
of the Scheldt, has been crossed in the face of heavy fire 
defending the bridgeheads and breaking up bridges flung 
over by our Engineers. The enemy has many guns and 
machine-guns everywhere, and our men, moving forward 
in this open warfare, without any protection of trenches 
or dug-outs, on the outskirts of woods where the Germans 
have good cover, and in villages where they fire from the 
roofs and windows and cellars, are not having an easy drive 
through. It is close, nagging fighting, and the enemy is 
showing a dogged spirit. But for all that he is losing 
ground, and men and guns; his losses in casualties are 
high, and he cannot withstand the forward movement of 
our men, who are taking his villages, encircling his woods, 



240 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

and crossing his streams by grim and gallant persistence. 

On the right, the 6th Division is beyond the eastern edge 
of the Bois de I'Eveque — Bishop's Wood — and beyond the 
village of Ors ; south of Landrecies, and in the centre, other 
English troops of the i8th and 25th Divisions are getting 
very close to Le Quesnoy, v^hich is south of Valenciennes. 
On the left, English and Scottish troops stormed the village 
of Thiant, after forcing the crossings of the Ecaillon river; 
and our 4th Division took the villages of Verchain and 
Monchaux; while the 6ist Highland Division cleared the 
river-bank to Maing under fierce machine-gun fire. The 
New Zealanders, attacking forward on high ground be- 
yond Neuvilly, captured many German guns and inflicted 
severe losses on the enemy. 

It is extremely dif^cult to get details of these operations 
to-day, as the news that comes back from our men is chiefly 
by aeroplane observers fiying low and watching their move- 
ments among the woods and villages. There is intense 
machine-gun fire from high ground east of Le Quesnoy, 
and hostile field-guns are firing from concealed positions 
and using quantities of gas-shells. Our airmen see much 
activity of troops and transport in the German lines, and it 
is possible that the enemy is preparing for further retreat 
to escape from the pressure of all these attacks, but mean- 
while he is maintaining a strong rear-guard screen of picked 
troops and sending up new battalions to fill up the gaps 
caused by our captures and our fire. 

October 27 
Since Friday morning there has been continuous fighting 
north and south of Valenciennes, which is now closely in- 
vested by our troops of the First Army. In these opera- 
tions over 10,000 prisoners and many guns have fallen into 
our hands, and the First, Third, and Fourth Armies have 
captured many small towns and villages between Le Ques- 
noy and Valenciennes. This morning, by a further advance 
the troops of the First Army, after hard fighting round a 



THE LAST PHASE 241 

place called Caumont Farm, captured the village of Artres, 
across the Ecaillon river, and established a bridgehead over 
another stream east of the village. They pushed on north 
of Artres, securing positions on high ground, where they 
took fifty more prisoners, and thereby outflanked bodies 
of German troops lining the road, with strong defences, 
so that they were compelled to retreat hurriedly to Mare- 
schies, dropping their machine-guns and flinging away their 
kit. Other men of ours surrounded and took the village 
of Famars, north of Artres, and a hillock called Mont 
Houy, and are moving forward to seize the crossings of the 
little River Rhonelle, eastwards. 

These movements bring our men close to the southern 
edge of Valenciennes, on the east side of the Scheldt, and 
make the German occupation of that city impossible, if we 
are able to hold this ground. It is evident that the enemy 
is being hustled in advance of his time-table of retreat, and 
under orders from his High Command German troops are 
making fierce counter-attacks in order to hold us back as 
long as possible. After a violent bombardment yesterday 
evening with field batteries and heavy trench-mortars, a 
strong counter-attack was launched upon our Third Army 
Front on the line of the railway north of Le Quesnoy, but 
in spite of powerful forces and most determined courage 
this attempt was repulsed with severe losses to the enemy, 
their ranks being mown down by rifle and machine-gun fire. 
After this failure the enemy withdrew, leaving many dead 
in front of our positions and carrymg away his wounded, 
and during the night his guns continued to bombard our 
lines and the villages of Salesches farther back. This 
afternoon another counter-attack was delivered against our 
troops of the First Army, with the object of retaking the 
ground which we captured this morning, and to beat our 
men back from the bridgeheads of the Rhonelle river. 
Some of our advanced posts were driven in, but our men 
still hold their general line of advance secured this morn- 
ing. The investment of Valenciennes has been made closer 



242 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

by one body of troops crossing the Scheldt at the village of 
Trith, east of Denain, in spite of the enemy's violent op- 
position with machine-gun fire. 

While this fighting was in progress a remarkable scene 
was taking place in Denain, w^hich was recently captured by 
the 4th Division of Canadians after a severe resistance by 
the enemy outside and in its streets. Many hundreds of 
people were in the town during this battle, living down in 
their cellars while shell-fire passed over their house-tops. 
When the town was captured the people gave them coffee, 
but they could not stay and went on after the Germans, 
driving them to the outskirts of Valenciennes. But to-day 
these very men came back for awhile to take part in a 
thanksgiving ceremony by the people of Denain, of which 
they were the heroes. It was a touching episode in this 
war, and some of our soldiers had wet eyes now and then. 
Denain is not a pretty town. It is in the coal-mining region 
of France, and is like most coal-mining villages in the 
world, with rows of red-brick cottages beyond slag-heaps 
and factory chimneys, leading up to a big church which 
is the centre of the life and spirituality of the town, though 
ugly also and with none of the beauty of mediaeval architec- 
ture, but there was a spiritual beauty here to-day, the 
gratitude of many hearts redeemed by the courage of men 
in four years' servitude and horror, and thanksgiving for 
the mercy that had come to them. Somehow or other 
the people of Denain, poor though they are and still half- 
starved, had found, or bought, or made thousands of flags, 
English flags and French flags, and they had hung them 
across their streets and from the windows of their houses. 
Outside the church and down the high-street the Canadian 
soldiers of the Fourth Division were Hned up, and fine, 
grim fighting men they looked in their steel helmets, like 
seventeenth-century men-at-arms. Outside the church there 
was a group of priests in gold-worked vestments glinting 
in the autumn sun that pierced through the mists, and be- 
hind them a row of girls dressed as Alsatian maids, with 



THE LAST PHASE 243 

coloured frocks, and big silk bows on their heads, and 
each of them carried a large bouquet of flowers for one 
of the officers of the Canadian Corps as a tribute to heroes. 
General Currie, Canadian Corps Commander, and the Gen- 
eral Commanding the Fourth Canadian Division came, 
with their brigadiers and other generals and Staff officers. 

And then there came a young English captain, who was 
received with the Royal salute by the Canadian soldiers. 
It was the Prince of Wales, and one of the Alsatian girls 
went to him and put a great bouquet in his arms, and he 
bowed low and smiled his thanks. Masses of flowers were 
given to the Canadian officers, and there came up a little 
procession of old men in black, bearing a banner, which 
they gave to the general commanding the division as a gift 
from the town of Denain to the Province of Quebec. They 
w^ere veterans of the war of 1870, and for a second time 
they had been delivered from the Germans. The doors of 
the church were wide open, and officers and old men and 
women followed the Prince of Wales inside, while the 
priests in their gold vestments went to the altar and praised 
God for this deliverance and day of joy. It was in the 
church round which there had been bloody fighting a few 
days ago, and in the roof, over the high altar, was a big 
shell-hole showing what had happened then. Not far away, 
up by Valenciennes, the enemy was still fighting, and Denain 
was within range of his gun-fire. But there was no sound 
of war in the church. There was the music of women's 
voices singing very sweetly old songs of praise, and at the 
altar the chanting of priests. The women's voices were so 
full of emotion and beautiful in their harmony that all the 
Canadian soldiers in the Church sat very still, and into 
their eyes, the eyes of men who had seen the worst things 
of war, its most bloody cruelties, there crept a melted look, 
and they bowed their heads below that high thrilling mel- 
ody, which was like running water to wash away the wounds 
of war. 

One of the priests turned to that crowd of soldiers and to 



S44< THE WAY TO VICTORY 

the young Prince among them, and in a loud voice said, 
"Merci." And then, with an eloquence that was not studied, 
but from the heart of this man, who had seen the suffering 
of his people in this town, thanked England for what she 
had done for France, and acclaimed the valour of the Cana- 
dians, who were the rescuers of Denain, and reminded the 
Prince of Wales that, though in old days England and 
France had fought with each other because of rival inter- 
ests and ambitions, yet now when the liberty of civilization 
was threatened England and France had united and fought 
side by side. The priest spoke the word ''England" with 
love in his voice, and gave his gratitude to those brave, 
dogged men of England who through four years of war 
had given their blood without stint because of their ideals. 
I cannot translate his words or summarize them, but, as 
he spoke them in French, they were very moving. Then 
suddenly, as he ended, there was loud music in the church 
of Denain, and perhaps it was music never heard before in 
any church of France. For the band of the Canadians 
struck up the ''Marseillaise," and the notes of that hymn 
of revolution and liberty which is now the hymn of France, 
rang out with its strange passion and exultation, and filled 
the sanctuary. Outside there was another band, and the 
Canadian Scots, with their drums and fifes, stirred the 
enthusiasm of the people to a high pitch. There was a 
miarch past the Prince of Wales beneath the empty pedestal, 
where once had been the statue to General Villars, the 
liberator of France from the Austrians in the seventeenth 
century. The Germans have taken the statue away, but 
there was something strangely significant in that procession 
past its pedestal by the men who had rescued Denain from 
the German scourge. 

October 28 
The German gunners and machine-gun rear-guards are 
"obeying the order recently transmitted to them from Gen- 
eral Headquarters that they must not allow their fighting 
spirit to be lowered by the prospects of peace or by politics. 



THE LAST PHASE 245 

Hindenburg approves of these peace efforts, says this order, 
but expects the German army to obey him in bad days as in 
good, and the soldiers are asked to go on fighting bravely, 
so that even now they may obtain an honourable peace. 
The German rear-guards are fighting hard and bravely to 
make a screen behind which there are preparations for a 
general retreat, and round Tournai and Valenciennes they 
are holding out stubbornly to gain time. 

Yesterday and last night German artillerymen, mostly, I 
believe, with single guns left from batteries on the move, 
maintained a heavy barrage-fire on positions and villages 
along our Second, Third, and Fifth Army Fronts, and there 
was a German counter-attack on the village of Famars, 
south of Valenciennes, when their men succeeded in gain- 
ing the northern part of that place. Our Gordon High- 
landers went forward from the southern streets to drive 
them out, and after fierce and close fighting with machine- 
guns and bayonets, when many of the enemy were killed, 
recaptured their positions. Fierce concentrations of shell- 
fire on the bridgeheads of the River Rhonelle have made 
the crossing of that stream difficult and hazardous, but in 
spite of this fire our Engineers have established bridges at 
several points. So far it seems that only patrols have 
crossed east and north of Maresches, as the enemy is still 
holding this line with many machine-guns. All this is, as 
I have said, no indication of a German plan to defend his 
present positions to the last, but is a covering battle for the 
eastward movement of material and men. But it is a grim 
defence all the same, and no fun for our men, like those of 
the heroic 51st Division of Highlanders, who have been in 
this army of pursuit, following up the enemy and routing 
him out of his hornets' nest, from which comes a deadly 
spray of machine-gun bullets. 

November i 
Valenciennes was closed in by the Canadian troops this 
morning, after heavy fighting, and the enemy will have to 



246 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

abandon it within a few hours. It seems almost certain 
that it will be ours to-night or to-morrow morning, when all 
the thousands of civilians still living there and waiting with 
desperate anxiety for our entry will be rescued from these 
days of terror. For during recent days they must have 
passed through terrible emotions, crowded down in their 
cellars, listening to the noise of gun-fire around them, and 
to the tattoo of machine-guns served by German soldiers 
in rooms above them. This morning, after many days like 
this, a tumult of gun-fire louder than anything they had 
ever heard opened north and south of them, and the battle 
came close to their streets. When I went up among the Ca- 
nadians to-day the sound of this shell-fire was terrific, and 
the Canadian officers tell me that their troops attacked to- 
day under support of a more powerful concentration of 
guns than they have ever had on so narrow a front since 
they have been in France. South of the city our 6ist, 49th, 
and 4th Divisions attacked the enemy across the Rhonelle 
river, and after a hard struggle captured the villages of 
Maresches and Preseau, and established themselves on high 
ground two miles to the east of the river. 

Valenciennes itself is not being touched by our fire, under 
strict orders, but the ground over which the Canadians 
had to advance this morning was smothered in high ex- 
plosives. They had in front of them the high ground called 
Mont Houy, from which they had fallen back two or three 
days ago under German counter-attacks, and this was still 
strongly held by machine-gun posts. There were also a 
number of farms, farmsteads, and cottages, like La Tar- 
gette and the Chemin Vert, to the left of the village of 
Aulnoy, just below Valenciennes railway, in which the 
enemy had organized defences. Over these places our bar- 
rage-fire rolled as a devastating tide, wiping them off the 
map of France, and at the same time our guns fired a num- 
ber of smoke-shells, which made a dense white fog, ob- 
literating all view of our advancing troops, and putting the 
Germans in a haze so thick that they could not see three 



THE LAST PHASE 247 

paces about them. Their machine-gunners could not find 
their human targets, and were helpless. The German in- 
fantry of the 6th Division were as baffled as if blankets had 
been flung about their heads. One German officer, taken 
prisoner this morning, with many others, said that his posi-* 
tion was so hopeless in this fog that he told his company 
there was nothing to do but surrender, and led them for- 
ward as the Canadians advanced to hand them over. At 
a small place called La Vessie, at the southern edge of 
Valenciennes, there was a German field-gun in action, firing 
at close range through this mist, but the Canadians closed 
round it and captured it. 

The enemy's guns had put down a fierce line of fire before 
the attack started, or soon afterwards, but their batteries 
were quickly silenced by the power of our artillery, and 
after that the Canadians were only faced by machine-gun 
fire from positions in ruined buildings and in embanked 
ditches, where Germans held out to the last. The Canadian 
casuahies were not heavy, I am told by their own officers, 
and they were perfectly successful in reaching their ob- 
jectives along the railway, which is the southern boundary 
of Valenciennes. 

While that attack was taking place another brigade of 
Canadians on the west side of the city where the canal 
forms the boundary line, were pushing outposts across, and 
establishing themselves on the inner bank. So they hold 
Valenciennes in a tight grip, as Cambrai was held on the 
last day in German hands, and the enemy must get out. 
' At midday to-day he made one last effort to check us, and 
a counter-attack was delivered from the village of Saultain, 
on the eastern side, but orders were given for the artillery 
to deal with this, and I have no doubt that it was shattered. 
The Germans have already lost many men on this southern 
side of the city, and the Canadians were surprised at the 
number of German dead lying about the Rhonelle river 
after the fighting of recent days. 

For the survivors it is a hopeless business, for they know 



^48 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

now that they are not only beaten in the field, but in the 
world. "We have been betrayed," said one of the German 
officers to-day, "and that is why we have lost the war." 
He had a list of betrayals, beginning with Italy and going 
on to Rumania and then to Bulgaria, and now, worst of all 
from his point of view, Austria. They acknowledge that 
with Austria out of the war they will find it impossible to 
fight on alone except in a losing fight to save their pride, so 
humiliation and despair have entered their souls where 
once arrogance had a dwelling-place and a sense of victory 
over all the world. 

So it is to-day around Valenciennes, where all the neigh- 
bouring country is beautiful in the light of a golden All 
Souls' Day, with a blue sky over the coloured woods through 
which the uproar of gun-fire comes, and where in villages 
very close to the fighting-line women and children liberated 
from German rule are walking with bouquets of autumn 
flowers to put on the altars of their churches in memory of 
the dead to whom they owe their rescue. 

Farther north, across the French frontier, towards the 
town of Audenarde, in Belgium, there is another battle in 
progress, which began yesterday and is continuing to-day, 
with Belgian, French, American, and British troops at- 
tacking side by side. Our men belong to the 34th, 31st, 
and 35th Divisions. It is a battle among Flemish villages 
and farmsteads, where peasants are still living helplessly 
entangled in the nets of horror, with German machine-gun- 
ners firing from their windows, and Allied troops trampling 
into their courtyards with naked bayonets, and the killing 
of men in their bedrooms and cellars. Into villages from 
which the enemy has been lately driven poison gas comes 
from shell-fire, which is not very loud, but makes a little 
hiss as each shell bursts and liberates its fumes. We have 
stopped all use of gas because of these civilians, but the 
Germans are using it every day, and in the Flemish villages 
many babies are dead and dying, and our ambulances are 
carrying away women and girls gasping for breath and 



THE LAST PHASE ^49 

blinded by this foul weapon of war. Our men give these 
village people gas-masks, taken from German prisoners now 
safe behind the lines, and teach them how to use them, but 
it is of no avail, because it needs long training and discipline 
to keep on gas-masks for any length of time. 

Last night, in front of our lines near Audenarde, where 
Scots and Welsh Fusiliers of the 31st Division were ap- 
proaching Elseghem, and south of them Lancashire Fusilers 
and Durhams were close up to the Scheldt Canal at 
Meersche, the enemy set fire to many houses and farms, 
and all the sky was lit up by the red glare, so that the Ger- 
man soldiers might see the movements of our men. It 
added to the terror of the night to women who stood with 
their children clinging to them, watching this scene of war 
which had engulfed them. Our advance during these last 
two days has been steady and successful, and to-day the 
enemy is retreating in front of our Scottish Rifles and 
King's Own Scottish Borderers, and other troops of the 
35th Division south of Audenarde. With the French to the 
north of us American troops are fighting, and have done 
very gallant work through these villages and woods. They 
have had a hard time, for the artillery in support of them 
have been unable to fire as effectively as usual owing to the 
anxiety of our gunners to avoid shelling civilians, so the 
Americans have had to advance against machine-gun fire 
with rifles and bayonets. They were fighting hard yes- 
terday in a wood called the Spitalbosch, where the enemy 
was strongly defended behind three-trunk barricades and 
wired enclosures, and machine-guns hidden in branches and 
holes dug beneath the roots of trees. It was like the fight- 
ing American troops have had in the Argonne, and very dif- 
ficult and perilous. But these men have gone forward with 
fine courage, and have routed the enemy out from many 
of his lairs in this woodland, and by their good service have 
helped the progress of the French on their left. All this 
movement striking for Audenarde and the country north 
of it breaks through the German line south of Ghent, and 



^50 . THE WAY TO VICTORY 

will lead surely enough to the liberation of that Belgian 
city, which is yearning for the luck of Bruges. 

Meanwhile our soldiers, like their French and American 
comrades, and all the world, believe that the war is reach- 
ing its end, and that the last battle will soon be fought, and 
they wait with splendid hope for the news that peace is 
theirs, with the victory for which they have struggled and 
suffered so long. 

VII 

Fall of Valenciennes 

November i 
After fierce fighting by English and Canadian troops the 
old city of Valenciennes across the Scheldt Canal was 
entered yesterday morning. At 7.50 a.m. the general com- 
manding the Canadian troops, who encircled the town, sent 
through an historic message : *'I have the honour to report 
that Valenciennes is completely in our hands." It was a 
fine achievement, which English troops of the 49th and 
4th Divisions share with the Canadians, because these 
Yorkshire Territorials and Regulars of old county regi- 
ments overcame the enemy's desperate counter-attacks on 
Friday after our advance in the morning through the vil- 
lages of Aulnoy and Preseau, strongly held by large num- 
bers of German troops, with orders to defend these posi- 
tions to the death. From the north all advance was made 
impossible by the opening of the Scheldt sluice gates, which 
flooded that side of the city, and the enemy's only way of 
escape was by the south-east, so that here he had concen- 
trated all his available men. They fought with courage and 
grim obstinacy, but it was unavailing against the Canadians 
and English, supported by an immense concentration of ar- 
tillery. Many German dead lie across the little Rhonelle 
river, and 4000 prisoners were taken by our combined 
troops. The enemy's counter-attacks were made with the 



THE LAST PHASE 251 

help of Tanks, but broke down utterly, so that our men 
captured the Tanks and many more prisoners. 

I went into Valenciennes yesterday morning, shortly 
after its capture, when there was still heavy fighting on its 
south-east side, so that all our guns were in action as yl 
passed them, with an enormous noise, in the outskirts of 
the city, and flights of shells passing over its houses, where 
many civilians were waiting with mingled joy and fear, 
knowing that they were free again, but afraid of this fury 
of guns around them. The way to Valenciennes from 
Douai was full of haunting pictures of war, because Cana- 
dian and English troops have fought through many of the 
villages along these roads, and those places have not escaped 
unscathed. Their people have fled from those nearest to 
Valenciennes because of the German gun-fire, which has 
smashed through their roofs and walls and made wreckage 
in many houses. Some of them have been sliced in half, so 
that one looks into rooms where cottage pianos and women's 
sewing-machines and babies' cradles still stand against the 
farthest walls amidst broken beams and plaster. Only a 
few soldiers move among these abandoned villages, and 
yesterday, on a foul day, with wet mist steaming through 
their shell-pierced walls, which shook like sounding-boards 
to the roar of the gun-fire, they smelt of tragedy. Through 
Oisy and Aubry to La Sentinelle, suburbs of Valenciennes 
on this side of the Scheldt, there was hardly a living soul 
about, except odd figures like shadows in the wet fog lurk- 
ing under the walls — our soldiers, by the shape of their 
steel hats. 

All along the railway from Douai the bridges had been 
blown up by the enemy, and lay in monstrous wreckage 
across the lines. Beyond, in this thick veil of mist, black 
slag mountains, like Egyptian pyramids, loomed vaguely, 
with factory chimneys faintly pencilled above them, as 
though this were a war in Lancashire. Some people came 
dragging a cart piled high with furniture, and I called out 
to them, ''i\re you from Valenciennes?" "No, monsieur," 



252 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

said the man straining at his ropes, and he named another 
village close by, looking back in a scared way, as though 
of some fear that dwelt there. Dead horses, horribly 
mangled, lay on the roadside. War had passed this way 
not long ago. It was still very close to Valenciennes, and 
that city was between two fires. Most of the fire came 
from our side. Guns were crowded in this wet fog through 
which their flashes stabbed with sudden gusts of flame. 
Monsters raised up their snouts and bellowed from muddy 
fields near by, shaking earth and sky. Field batteries, 
stark in the open, were hard at work, and as I passed within 
a few yards of them, their sharp strokes hit my ear-drums 
like the crack of hammers. 

Then we came to the Scheldt Canal, and saw Valen- 
ciennes outspread before us on the other side, a long, nar- 
row city, built along the line of the Scheldt so that one sees 
it from end to end, with its churches and factories and 
towers high above its crowded roofs. Valenciennes, the 
old city of lacemakers, famous through a thousand years 
of history, because of the industry of its people and the 
noble men and women born within its walls, and the many 
sieges and captures and conflicts when it became the prize 
of robber princes and warrior empires. I thought of Sir 
John Froissart, that very gallant knight and mediaeval 
war correspondent, who was born here five hundred years 
ago. That -gentle chronicler would have been sad at heart 
to see the peril of his city, and yet not without exultation 
because of its liberation from the enemy who had held it 
for four years under an iron scourge. 

I went across a pontoon bridge built only a few hours 
ago by Canadian engineers, and passed into the city. The 
ruins of its railway station were elaborate ruins. Liver- 
pool Street Station would look like this if it had been 
smashed into twisted iron and broken glass by storms of 
high explosives. Our airmen had done most of the damage 
by constant raids upon this great junction of German 
traffic, and they had made a complete job of it. Rails were 



THE LAST PHASE 253 

torn up and sleepers burnt and charred. Their bombs had 
torn the fronts off the booking-offices and waiting-rooms 
and made matchwood of the signal-boxes and sheds. For 
German soldiers detraining here it was a hellish place, but 
beyond the town was untouched by any raid of ours, and 
the fire of our flying men had been deadly accurate. I 
went through this ruin out into the station-square. It was 
empty of all life, but one human figure was there all alone. 
It was the dead body of a young German soldier, lying with 
outstretched arms in a pool of blood. He looked as if he 
had fallen on his way to our lines, as though in hopes of 
escape. I went across the solitude of this station-square 
into the Rue St.-Jacques, and wondered because that was 
empty, too, and as yet I saw no people of Valenciennes. 
I looked through the broken windows of shop-fronts and 
no face looked back at me, but there was loneliness behind 
the counters. I peered through the window of the Hotel 
St.-Jacques, and saw its tables and chairs set as though 
for dinner, but no one sat at the board. At the corner 
of one street leading into the Place St.-Jean there was a 
table and chair, and on the table were many spent cartridges, 
and the pavement was littered with them. It was a sniper's 
post of some German soldier who had taken cover behind 
the corner of the shop-front as the Canadians had come 
in a few hours ago. 

There was still the noise of machine-gun fire somewhere 
on the right, long bursts of staccato shots, and I had heard 
from a Canadian colonel that the enemy were still holding 
out in a machine-gun post in the suburb of Marly. We 
kept our ears alert for any ping of a close bullet. A Ger- 
man ready for death might take many sure shots from any 
window or cellar here before paying the price. But where 
were the people of Valenciennes? The solitude was be- 
ginning to be oppressive. This was not like an entry into 
Lille. There were no manifestations of joy in this liberated 
city. The fury of that gun-fire oveihead had kept the 
people hidden in their houses. Presently, here and there 



^54 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

I saw some faces peering out and then a door opened and 
a man and a woman appeared and two thin children. The 
woman thrust out a skinny hand and grasped mine and 
began to weep. Then she talked passionately with a strange 
mingling of rage and grief. ''Oh, my God!" she said, 
''those devils have gone at last. What have they not made 
us suffer! My husband and I had four little houses — we 
were innkeepers — and last night they sent us to this part 
of the town and burnt all of them." She used a queer 
word in French. *'Last night," she said, "they made a 
devil's charivari and set many houses on fire." 

Her husband spoke to me over his wife's shoulder. "Sir,'* 
he said, "they have stolen everything, broken everything, 
and have ground us down for four years. They are ban- 
dits and brigands." "We are hungry," said a thin girl 
and a smaller boy by her side with a pinched white face 
"We have eaten all our bread, and I am hungry." They 
had some coffee, and asked me to go inside and drink it 
with them, but I could not wait. The woman held my 
wrists tight in her skinny hands and said, "You will come 
back." Then she wept again and said, "We are grateful 
to the English soldiers. It is they who have saved us." 

Farther on in Valenciennes two ladies passed, well 
dressed in black. They were hurrying fast, as though 
afraid of all this gun-fire over their heads, but they turned 
and smiled and said, "We are full of joy. Bravo, les 
AnglaisT One of them put her hand to her heart in a 
breathless way, and said, "For four years we have suffered. 
It would take four years to tell you all we have suffered. 
Mon Dieuf Mon DicuT Then these two ladies hurried 
on their way again. They were the last people we met 
until we went into the Place d'Armes, the great square of 
Valenciennes, where on one side stands the Hotel de Ville, 
magnificent with its long Renaissance front, richly carved, 
and all around old houses, built many of them in the time 
of the Spanish occupation of the Netherlands, like those in 
poor, stricken Arras. I noticed that the frontage of the 



THE LAST PHASE 255 

Hotel de Ville had been slightly scarred by shell-fire, and 
that some of the houses were pierced by shell-holes, though 
there were none in ruins. A group of men stood in a side 
street at the end of the Town Hall, and by the first glance 
at them I saw they belonged to the municipality. They 
were men in black clothes, and dignitaries of the city. 
They bowed and shook hands very warmly, and each man 
wanted to tell the tale of Valenciennes under German rule 
and of the last days of terror, and they all spoke at once, 
so that it was difficult to hear, especially as the noise of 
the gun-fire was increasing in violence. But I made out 
that one old gentleman had just had the inside of his house 
wrecked by shells from German guns. He pointed to a 
little house with pointed gables on the opposite side of the 
square, and said, "1 had a lucky escape." I also heard that 
the German flag on the Town Hall had been pulled down at 
ten minutes past ten, and that a young Canadian officer had 
climbed up and fastened the French tricolour in its place, 
and after that two French interpreters with the Canadian 
brigade first to enter had raised the English flag in Valen- 
ciennes. 

I asked to see the Mayor of the city, and a man who had 
been standing under cover of the walls said, "I will take 
you if you will please wait a minute." I had less than a 
minute to wait before he appeared again in full uniform, 
and said, "I am the pompier of Valenciennes, and there 
were many fires last night in the city, which are still burn- 
ing, but we can do nothing, because the Germans have let 
out all the water from the pipes, and so the cellars are all 
flooded, and the poor people cannot take refuge from bom- 
bardment." I saw this misery in Valenciennes, and waded 
through water ankle-deep in the streets, and looked down 
in the cellars through open doors below the houses, and saw 
that they were deep in water. Some young men came up 
to me, shaking hands emotionally with tears in their eyes. 
"We are some of those who escaped," said one of them. 
"Escaped from what?" I asked, and they pointed to a poster 



256 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

on the wall. I read it, and saw it was an order for the 
mobilization of all men between the ages of fifteen and 
thirty-five, who were to present themselves to the German 
commandant under severe penalties for refusal, in order 
to be evacuated through the German lines. This order 
was dated October 31, and the mobilization was to take 
place on November i — the day before our capture of the 
city. Twenty thousand people had been forcibly expelled 
on October 3 in the direction of Mons, leaving only 5000, 
who were employed by the enemy in the municipal services, 
maintaining the gas and water supplies, washing, and other 
work. Among that number remaining were many who, 
after expulsion on October 3, had been allowed to return, 
as they were too weak to continue the march, and had 
dropped out, encumbering the line of the German retreat. 
There were also others who had escaped. Many young 
men had hidden. One of those standing near me had 
hidden in a wardrobe for several days, and when the Ger- 
mans had come and searched the room he had buried him- 
self behind the clothes, trembling lest he should be discov- 
ered. 

They clamoured for news of the outside world. "What 
is our line?" they asked. *'What towns have we captured?" 
And when I told them they raised their hats and cheered, 
for one man was from Laon, and another from Guise, and 
another from Courtrai, and they had had no news. 'Tor 
four years," said one young man, *'we have had only Ger- 
man lies. To know the truth is like escape from a dark 
prison." The pompier touched me on the arm and said, 
''Do not let us linger here. They are beginning to shell 
again, and three civilians were killed an hour or so ago. 
It would be a pity to die when we are so near peace." 
He gave a big, hearty laugh, and led me down a narrow pas- 
sage leading to some building where there was a long 
vaulted room, furnished with tables and beds. It was the 
temporary Mairie, and the Mayor and his assistants had 
been living here for fifteen days, when the battle came close 



THE LAST PHASE 257 

to them. It was dimly lighted, and there was an inter- 
national party there, including the French interpreters who 
had hauled up the British flag, Canadian soldiers, municipal 
officers of Valenciennes, and one or two English officers. 

The Mayor's secretary told me some of the facts of the 
German occupation. It was similiar history to that of 
Courtrai, Cambrai, Lille, and other liberated towns. Ger- 
man rule had been hard, and there were continual requisi- 
tions, fines, and imprisonments. The fines had increased 
in severity as Germany became more in need of money, and 
whereas in the early days private individuals had been fined 
a hundred marks or so for trivial offences against the Ger- 
man military rules, now in the last days they had to pay as 
much as two thousand. One man was fined in this way 
for not putting the prices of his goods in his shop window. 
The requisitions included all copper and mattresses, and 
wool and wine, and less than a month ago German soldiers 
completed the loot of the city by going round to each shop 
and filling sacks with Valenciennes lace — one sack held 
50,000 francs' worth of lace — linen handkerchiefs, and 
other clothes. This was official robbery. Private looting 
by soldiers was severely punished, and two soldiers were 
shot for it. During the last weeks of their occupation one 
regiment only, the 99th, was allowed in the city, and this 
was chiefly to prevent pillage, as the troops defending 
Valenciennes were holding positions outside. But for all 
that many houses were looted, especially the night before 
last, when the Germans went wild and did much damage, 
and valuable pictures were cut from their frames by Ger- 
man officers in search of souvenirs. 

The people were poorly fed during these four years, and 
only those with money could obtain things beyond the bar- 
est necessities of life. Butter was 40 francs a kilo (2j4 
lb.), coffee 60 francs, sugar 25 francs, chocolate 80 francs. 
The people were encouraged to work in the market-gardens 
and grow potatoes, cauliflowers, and so on, and then the 



258 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

German authorities requisitioned all their produce. The 
look of the women and children who here and there, brav- 
ing the uproar of the gun-fire around them, came to their 
doorways calling out, "Bonjour, monsieur, bonjour, et 
merci" to any British soldier who passed, showed that they 
had lived through lean days. There was a gaunt look on 
the women's faces, and the .children had sunken cheeks, 
though their eyes were wonderfully bright because of the 
gladness that had come after their fear. I saw many lit- 
tle groups who made something go weak in one to see them. 
At one window sat an old man surrounded by young women. 
The window was pushed open as I passed, and the old man 
held out both hands to mine, and as he clasped them tears 
ran down his cheeks and he could say nothing, though his 
lips moved. He was a fine old man, with a little white im- 
perial Hke one of Napoleon's soldiers of the Old Guard, 
and a lady whom I took to be his granddaughter, said he 
was a captain of artillery in the war of 1870, and, going 
back into the room, brought a portrait of a young soldier, 
whom I saw was the ghost of this old man in boyhood. 

Through that open window in Valenciennes came a flood 
of gratitude to the English and Canadian troops, very beau- 
tiful, and kind words from people liberated after four years 
of horror, and I went away hoping these people would be 
safe at last, although the battle was even then being fought 
very close to them. I returned in the evening, when all 
the sky was on fire with a sunset which spread out gold 
and crimson wings above emerald lakes and jewelled isles, 
so that one was awestruck by this beauty after a dismal 
day. In the darkness which followed this glory of colour 
there were bursts of red flame and long vivid flashes rend- 
ing the black night where from the other side of Valen- 
ciennes to this side of Tournai all our guns were at work. 
I hoped the day would soon come when these lights in the 
sky would be put out by the order to cease fire all along 
the Front. 



THE LAST PHASE 259 

vni 

From Tournai to Mons 

November 6 
Our very gallant men who have gone so long and so far 
along the road to victory, which now seems just ahead at 
the turn of the road — that seems too good to be true, like 
a mirage which eludes men as they walk — are still pursu- 
ing an enemy in retreat. They are well on the other side 
of the Sambre, to the east of the forest of Mormal, through 
the villages of Cartignies and Marbaix and Dompierre, and 
are fighting about Bavai, where last evening heavy counter- 
attacks were repulsed with grave losses to the Germans. 
The enemy is retiring behind a screen of rear-guards, who 
here and there are trying to check our troops by machine- 
gun fire from villages and woods and railway embankments, 
but nothing can hide from us the truth that it is a general 
retirement on a wide front by exhausted men, whose di- 
visions and battalions have been shattered, so that only 
weak remnants can be gathered for this last show of re- 
sistance. 

In the north, along our Second Army Front, about Tour- 
nai, the line of the Scheldt is still held by machine-gunners 
beyond the canal and floods, but they are now at the pivot 
of the salient, which is sharply increasing every day, so 
that it is only a question of time when they get out of that 
pocket. Tournai must be ours before long, and then all 
the enemy's line will have a landslide as far north as Ghent. 
There, with water in front of them and lines of machine- 
guns well placed, and a well-hidden rear-guard garrison, it 
is difificult for the Belgians to enter that fine old city of 
theirs where thousands of people are awaiting liberation; 
and even now this could only be done by tragic loss of life. 
The Belgians would not spare themselves that price if it 
were worth while, but things are happening beyond the 



260 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

lines on the Belgian Front, as on ours, which may make 
more sacrifice unnecessary. 

News came to us last night over the wires that Germany 
was sending plenipotentiaries to ask for terms of armistice 
from Marshal Foch. And those men were coming over 
under the white flag, knowing through President Wilson 
what those terms are, and what surrender they will have 
to make of all their pride. Last night, when that news 
came among British officers in touch with headquarters, 
they drew a sudden breath, and said, *'Then to-night is the 
end. . . . The last battle has been fought. ... It is too 
w^onderful to believe." I heard those words this morning 
again — in Valenciennes — among generals and staff officers 
gathered there in the Place d'Armes. "It must mean the 
end of the war. . . . Surely it is the end at last. . . . Who 
would ever have believed it?" And one man standing near 
me said very gravely, "Thank God!" And another, who 
was a younger man, laughed with a queer break in his voice, 
and raised a big bouquet of flowers given to him by the 
townspeople, and gave a little dance, and said, "Back to 
peace again, and not too quick for me. . . . Back to life." 

In Valenciennes^ where on the first day of its liberation 
I walked through empty streets, past windows from which 
no face looked out, with a rush of shells overhead, and the 
tumult of great gun-fire all round, and the rat-tat-tat of 
machine-gun fire in the streets somewhere on my right, 
there was to-day a ceremony which seemed a celebration 
of this spirit of peace which is like a shining Hght before 
the eyes of all our soldiers. The men who had saved the 
city came in with their generals to receive thanks from the 
representatives of the people. All told, there are only 
5000 people left in Valenciennes, for all the rest of its in- 
habitants were forced to leave by the enemy, who on the 
very last day, as I have written before, summoned the re- 
maining manhood to depart and would have compelled them 
to go, if we had not stormed the gates in time to save them. 
So there were not vast crowds to see the entry and review, 



THE LAST PHASE 261 

and most of the streets were still empty and many houses 
deserted beyond the ruins of the railway station flung into 
fantastic wreckage. But in the spaciousness of the Place 
d'Armes, in old high-gabled houses on each side of the 
Hotel de Ville, with its richly carved frontage, above the 
wide flight of steps, many of the remaining 5000 were 
gathered, crowded at windows and balconies, which bore 
traces of the recent bombardment, and on the roofs of 
buildings pierced here and there by shells. It was only 
last Saturday that happened. It was only five days ago — 
the morning I went in — that bodies of German soldiers 
were lying in their blood on these cobble-stones, and that 
one of the priests of Valenciennes burying a child was mor- 
tally wounded by the side of that small open grave, and 
that two other citizens were killed as they ran towards the 
water-logged cellars, where women and children crouched 
with the floods rising about them. 

But five days had made a difference in Valenciennes, and 
to-day for these people there it was a time of thanksgiving 
and pageantry. The colours of many flags splashed down 
their streets and fluttered above their gables, and their bal- 
conies were draped with the Tricolour and the Union Jack 
and the Stars and Stripes. Old citizens wore tall hats 
saved up for this day, and girls had taken their lace from 
hiding-places where Germans had not found it, and wore it 
round their necks and wrists for the honour of this day. 
Old women in black bonnets sat in the centre of window- 
places and clapped their hands — their wrinkled, hard-work- 
ing old hands — to every British soldier who passed, and 
there were thousands who passed. It was glorious to see 
them march by and to know that perhaps these fighting 
men, these square-jawed boys of ours who have gone 
through the fires of war unscathed, may have fought their 
last battle and gained the final victory. They were troops 
of our First Army, commanded by General Sir Henry 
Home, and were the English divisions — the 49th and 4th 
— who with the Canadians, first in the entry of the city, 



^62 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

share the honour of the Battle of Valenciennes, which was 
hard fought by the enemy and ourselves. 

The army commander drove in with his corps and di- 
visional generals, among whom was Sir William Currie, 
commanding the Canadian Corps. The Prince of Wales 
was with Sir Henry Home, and took part in the inspection 
of the troops. Flowers were showered on all these gen- 
erals, great bouquets which they handed to their aides, who 
held them with a touch of embarrassment in their English 
way. Nobody heard a word of the speeches, the tribute 
of the councillors of Valenciennes to the glory of the Brit- 
ish and Canadian troops who had rescued their people 
from their servitude under a ruthless enemy, nor the an- 
swer of Sir Henry Home, expressing the pride of his sol- 
diers in the rescue of that fair old city and their admira- 
tion for the courage of its people. Every word was over- 
whelmed by cheering. Then the pipers of a Highland di- 
vision, whose fighting I have helped to record through these 
years of heroic endurance, played a tune, and the music 
of those pipes was loud in the square of Valenciennes, and 
will echo in the hearts of its people through many centuries 
of history and in old traditions. There was a march-past, 
and thousands of bayonets shone above the steel helmets 
of these men, and they were heroes who went by, and they 
had the tribute of heroes from those they had saved. 

November 7 
In wet weather and mud and autumn mists our men of the 
1st and 32nd Divisions, with the Guards and others, keep 
trudging after the retreating Germans east of Valenciennes 
and the forest of Mormal, keeping in touch with their rear- 
guards, and hastening their abandonment of villages and 
woods where they have machine-gun screens. It is not a 
walk-over, for the enemy is still losing prisoners, and we 
are still losing a few men here and there. As late as yes- 
terday German resistance has stiffened at various places, 
like Eclaibes and Limont Fontaine, to gain time for an or- 



THE LAST PHASE 263 

derly retreat. We are within a few thousand yards of 
Maubeuge, and working towards Mons. It would indeed 
be an astounding coincidence if the British Army were to 
end the war where they began it — at Mons, where the ''Old 
Contemptibles" fought their first big fight — and that looks 
as though it might happen. These small rear-guard ac- 
tions, with fights for machine-guns, and the stealthy for- 
ward movement of advanced screens feeling their way 
through the forest lands of this country beyond Valen- 
ciennes, and hearing by the sudden chatter of machine-guns 
that the enemy is close ahead of them, make hard work 
for the men engaged, and are great adventures, with all 
the risks of death and wounds. 

But now for our armies as a whole there is only one 
all-absorbing interest and thought, and that is to know 
whether the terms of the armistice have been signed by that 
party of four m.en who went over last night into the French 
lines with a trumpet heralding their approach and a white 
flag for a safe-conduct. They were late, it seems, and, by 
wireless, regretted that they had been delayed by the trans- 
port on their roads, as one might well imagine, with knowl- 
edge of what retreat means in weather like this. They 
were late, but by this time, one way or another, the fate of 
Germany must have been settled — for peace terms, however 
hard they are, are the last ditch of war in front of revo- 
lution and anarchy. As far as I know our armies, their 
hope is for the quick ending of this business, for the saving 
of needless bloodshed, for the return to normal life, and 
for all that peace means to men who have fought long and 
hard in exile from their homes, under the daily menace of 
death. On the other hand, if these four plenipotentiaries 
refuse the terms, our men will fight on again, sure that, 
whatever happens now, the Germans cannot hold them on 
this front, and are bound to break. The German com- 
manders are anxious to maintain their fighting spirit to the 
end — not an easy thing to do when many of their divi- 
sions are broken to pieces, and when entire regiments con- 



264 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

sist of a few hundred men or less, as in the case of the 15th 
Reserve Infantry Regiment, which counted thirty-five men 
after fighting in Flanders, and then had 500 drafts of re- 
turned wounded. Not an easy thing to do with certain 
knowledge of defeat among all their men, with revolution 
threatened at home, with thousands of desertions, and a 
state of almost revolt within the ranks. But the regimen- 
tal and battalion commanders are still trying to goad their 
men into resistance, so that the German army may keep up 
a show before the world to the bitter end. On the last 
day of last month the following order was issued by the 
headquarters of the 23rd Reserve Division, and it is inter- 
esting in its psychology: 

"English prisoners have expressed surprise that the Ger- 
man soldier now offers so little resistance. If this is so, 
it will be easy to carry the battle at a not far distant date 
on to German soil and attain a decision. A French officer 
is of opinion that an incomprehensible, almost diseased in- 
difference has laid hold of the whole German army. . . . 
I am convinced that this battalion will be driven by these 
statements, which are a disgrace to us, to show the enemy 
that in us there still lives the old unbroken German fighting 
spirit which for four years has defied all the onslaughts 
on the Western Front." 

There is not one British soldier who underrates the cour- 
age of the German soldier or his wonderful fighting quali- 
ties. Even now, hard pressed as he has been, he is con- 
ducting his retreat in a skilful way, preventing his front 
from being utterly broken, carrying away much of his ma- 
terial, saving many of his guns, while his rear-guard ma- 
chine-gunners offer a stubborn resistance. But that is not 
good enough now to save his armies. After four years of 
slaughter, with enonnous losses, and all their hopes of vic- 
tory gone, the courage of picked and stubborn men is not 
enough to rally the rank and file, who have a clear vision 
of their doom, and dread the menace that is creeping closer 
to them. A frightful hatred is in their hearts for the lead- 



THE LAST PHASE 265 

ers who have duped them with false promises, and made 
all their sacrifices vain, and brought the hate of the world 
upon them. The worst among them are afraid now of 
their own villainies, and the best among them ashamed and 
sick of the atrocious things done by official command. 
They are under the fear of punishment from the gods and 
from men, and hag-ridden by the thought of the retribu- 
tion which will be exacted from their race. If the armistice 
is not signed to-day or to-morrow there may be a momen- 
tary rally of men called upon to die in the last ditches with 
some pride of manhood, but there will be no rally which 
will last until revolution begins; and the four plenipoten- 
tiaries have had that thought behind them on their journey. 

November io 
The spirit of victory is in the air. Our troops are follow- 
ing up the retreating enemy with bands playing, and go 
singing down the roads with flags on their rifles and on 
their gun-limbers through villages, from which German 
rear-guards have gone only an hour or two before, and 
where French and Flemish people cheer them as they pass 
with cries of *'Vive les Anglais!" It is glorious autumn 
weather, with a sparkle of gold in the sunlight and a glint 
of gold on the russet leaves and shining pools along the 
roads, so that it seems as though Nature rejoices with men 
because a horror is being lifted from the world by the end- 
ing of this war, and is smiling through tears, like old men 
we meet and women who take our hands telling of their 
thankfulness. It is Sunday, and in many churches in 
France and Belgium, and in cathedrals which have escaped 
destruction by a narrow chance, only scathed a little by 
battles round their town, the Te Deum is being sung, and 
people who a week ago crept to a church close in the shadow 
of the walls, afraid of the noise of gun-fire around them, 
and who a day or two ago saw the grey wolves of the Ger- 
man army still prowling in their streets, though with a hang- 
dog look, are now singing their praises to God because of 



^ee THE WAY TO VICTORY 

their deliverance, almost doubting even still that this miracle 
has happened to them, and that after four years under the 
hostile yoke they are free. Free to speak their minds, 
free to display the flags of their nation, free of fines and 
punishments, and requisitions, and spying, and German po- 
lice, and German arrogance, free in their souls and hearts 
after four years of servitude under hostile rule. 

So it v^as in Tournai to-day. For three weeks the peo- 
ple there had Hved in their cellars listening to the fury of 
the gun-fire along the Scheldt Canal and closing in about 
them. They v^ere afraid of having their old city smashed 
above their heads and of being buried under its ruins. 
They were afraid of asphyxiating gas creeping down into 
their cellars and killing them with its poisoned fumes. The 
Germans said, *The English will do this to you. You will 
all be killed before they come." But, in spite of their fear, 
they would not leave, and prayed for the coming of the 
English. A month ago more than 10,000 went away from 
Tournai, but that was behind German bayonets after a roll- 
call of all able-bodied men, who were forced to go, while 
their women wept for them. A week ago the roar of the 
bombardment increased, and never ceased day or night, 
and people became haggard in their cellars because of this 
awful noise above them. But they were comforted by the 
knowledge that this British gun-fire was not directed on 
Tournai, and said, *The Germans have lied again. We 
shall not be killed by our friends." Then two nights ago, 
above the noise of the guns, there were louder noises; stu- 
pendous explosions, shaking the very stones of their cel- 
lars and their vaulted roofs as by a convulsion in the bowels 
of the earth. Again and again through the night these ex- 
plosions happened, and the people of Tournai guessed that 
the Germans were blowing up the bridges over the Scheldt 
Canal, and that it was a signal of their retreat. They 
crept out of their houses on Friday morning, and went 
down to the canal, dividing one part of the town from the 
other, where all the houses had had their windows blown 



THE LAST PHASE 267 

• — 

out, and were badly shattered by the blowing up of the 
bridges. A few German machine-gunners remained hid- 
den in those houses. But presently the last of them came 
out and went away. One of them turned, and said to a 
woman of Tournai : "Your friends will soon be here. So 
much the better, because the war is ended for us. Germany 
is kaput/' 

The men and women waited, and presently they saw an 
English soldier make his way across the broken girders of 
the bridge. He was a tall, gallant-looking fellow, and as 
he stepped on to the inner side of the canal he drew his re- 
volver, and held it ready, looking about keenly for any 
enemy. But they were friends who rushed at him, shout- 
ing, "English, English," and women flung their arms about 
his neck, and kissed him, and led him into the town, with 
seething crowds about him, and one family took him into 
their house and gave him wine, which they had hidden for 
this day, and, raising their glasses, said, "Vive les Anglais !" 
As to-day, another family brought out their wine for me, 
and touched my glass with all their glasses, and said, "Vive 
I'Angleterre !" After the first soldier had come there came 
in a small patrol, while the enemy fired some shells into 
the town and killed some civilians, and after that other Brit- 
ish soldiers and staff officers arrived, and to-day there came 
marching through long columns of troops, with their guns 
and field-cookers and transport, and they had a welcome of 
heroes, and liked it, with the laughter of British soldiers 
for hero-worship. That was just after the singing of 
the Te Deum in the cathedral of Tournai, that Romanesque 
building with four tall towers, raised when Richard Coeur 
de Lion and the second Henry of England were living. 
Many people had gathered in its great nave and between its 
round-headed arches, and in the twilight of those grey old 
stones going up to the rich colour of the painted windows 
of a high choir behind the altar, beyond a forest of tall piers 
and pointed arches, with Gothic sculpture. The scene re- 
minded one of some Dutch painting of the Middle Ages 



268 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

toned down to a noble solemnity. The Bishop of Touraai 
was there on his throne, and after High Mass, when the Te 
Deum was sung, he came down the long nave in proces- 
sion, with priests and acolytes bearing before him the ban- 
ner of Belgium. The organ pealed out the National An- 
them of "La Brabangonne," and all the people sang it from 
full hearts, and the bishop, like many of his people, had 
tears in his eyes. Then cheers rose strangely in this 
church, whose bells have rung the tocsin for many wars 
and clashed out for the joy of peace, and w^omen's voices 
rose shrill above the deeper cheers of the men. 

As they poured out of the cathedral doors they joined 
the crowds assembled in the streets to watch the passing 
through of British troops, and their cheers rose again, and 
they clapped each body of men and waved hands to them 
and ran out to give them flags. Among those who passed 
were the Black Watch, and the red heckle in their bonnets 
was like a flower worn for victory. They came swinging 
through in all their war kit, with heavy packs, long, lean, 
hardy men, with a warrior look about them and knees as 
brown as the aprons to their kilts. They came swinging 
through Tournai to the music of their pipes, heard for the 
first time by these crowds, into whom it put a new fire of 
enthusiasm, so that their cheers rose higher. The Jocks 
grinned and answered cheer for cheer with shrill High- 
land cries, and it was fine to see them pouring out of the 
funnel of the narrow streets with old Flemish gables, and 
I wished a painter had been there to record it in colour and 
in spirit for all time. English troops followed with their 
brass bands and flourish of drumsticks, which overjoyed 
the Tournaisiens so that their eyes danced to this rhythm. 
They marched through the city to the canal and across the 
bridge already made by our Engineers, and there was a 
dense throng along the line of the canal, which until a day 
or two ago was a place of deadly menace, and English 
Tommies gave their hands to girls and led them over foot- 
bridges upon which German machine-gunners had kept 



THE LAST PHASE 269 

their weapons trained. It was a scene of peace after war. 

There was a different kind of scene yesterday when I 
went into Maubeuge, and, though it was one of victory 
close to peace, it smelt of war, and the tragedy of war had 
not quite lifted. I hardly thought I should get into Mau- 
beuge that day, for in the morning our men were still out- 
side it, and there was no news through when I started that 
it had been taken. Later on the road I heard that our men 
had gone in and were in touch with the enemy's rear-guards 
outside. The name of Maubeuge summoned back bad old 
memories, and I thought of the French crowd in 19 14 who 
heard of its fall when I was standing with them and spoke 
its name in a horrified whisper as though, if Maubeuge 
were lost, all were lost for France. It had been a tragic 
blow, for 35,000 French soldiers and three of their gener- 
als had been captured there. Yesterday it was taken back 
for France by our Grenadier Guards. On the way through 
Valenciennes I passed many parties of refugees trekking 
back to the villages from which they had fled under Ger- 
man shell-fire or gas. They were pushing handcarts laden 
with chattels and children, and they had a homing look in 
their eyes. Old ladies in black bonnets trudged after gun- 
limbers, to which they had harnessed their carts, and young 
women were riding gaily on lorries and guns with Tommies 
grinning on either side of them. Many of them, I think, 
were going back to the town of St.-Amand, through which 
I passed, with its long high street utterly empty of human 
life, and not a soul in any shuttered house. 

As in Lille, so in Maubeuge, the conscription of women 
for forced labour away from their homes, when they suf- 
fered shocking indignities and privations, is what can be 
least forgotten or forgiven by these people. They made 
an arbitrary choice of girls among the peasants and bour- 
geois, and even selected Mile. Walrand until she escaped 
under protest. Then in January they took four notable 
citizens of Maubeuge as hostages to Russia on account of 
the French attitude regarding Alsace-Lorraine. They were 



270 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

among 600 hostages taken from this northern part of 
France, and they were treated inhumanly. I met one of 
these gentlemen yesterday in Maubeuge, returned after his 
six months' exile. "They treated us worse than beasts," 
he said. ''On our arrival in Russia we had to sleep on ice 
a foot thick without shelter until we were put into barns 
without straw and without washing facilities or any kind 
of decency. We protested and said, *We shall all die,' and 
the German officer in charge of us said, That is what we 
want. The more of you that die, the better pleased we 
shall be.' " Some did die — one of the four from Mau- 
beuge — and many became ruined in health for life. It 
was four years of mental torture in Maubeuge, but towards 
the end they knew that Germany was breaking up. Peo- 
ple there, like others in Tournai, to-day tell me that after 
the failure of the March offensive, there was every sign of 
moral and physical downfall in the German army. Disci- 
pline became lax or dead, and soldiers refused to salute 
their officers, and even dared to jeer at them without fear 
of being punished. German officers were afraid of their 
men, and had foreknowledge of doom. The whole Ger- 
man war machine became shoddy and worn. Their trans- 
port was falling to pieces, their horses were bare-ribbed 
through starvation, the men were on short rations, and 
were always hungry. The spirit of despair and of revolt 
increased among them. When at last their days were num- 
bered in Maubeuge, and the Governor left with his staff, 
they were gloomy beyond words, and the Governor himself 
wept because of Germany's downfall. While the main body 
of the German troops went away in retreat, a rear-guard 
screen was left outside the town to cover them, and through 
this our Grenadier Guards broke their way at four o'clock 
yesterday morning. Small parties of men had to be 
mopped up later, and I saw a batch of prisoners being 
brought out as I went in. There were also a few snipers 
about, and one was still somewhere among the ramparts 



THE LAST PHASE 271 

when I came away, according to one of our officers, who 
said he had just been firing. 

The enemy was still sending over some harassing shots 
when dusk crept over Maubeuge, and, as I went away, I 
hoped they would be the last shots I should hear in this 
war. For there was great news in the world The Kaiser 
had abdicated, and the time for the German plenipotenti- 
aries was running out, and the pressure on them to sign 
the terms of the armistice was becoming overwhelming as 
the hours passed. Meanwhile, our troops were outside 
Mons, and it looks as though fate meant it to happen that 
the war should end where for the British Army it began. 
To-day the world still awaits the greatest news of all, end- 
ing all doubts, and giving us the miracle of so quick and 
complete a victory, but without wireless there is a message 
that comes to one that all is well, and that peace is coming 
with the dawn after this nightmare of blood and agony. 

November ii 
Our troops knew early this morning that the armistice had 
been signed. I stopped on my way to Mons outside bri- 
gade headquarters, and an officer said, ^'Hostilities will 
cease at eleven o'clock." Then he added, as all men add 
in their hearts, "Thank God for that!" All the way to 
Mons there were columns of troops on the march, and their 
bands played ahead of them, and almost every man had a 
flag on his rifle, the red, white, and blue of France, the 
red, yellow, and black of Belgium. They wore flowers in 
their caps and in their tunics, red and white chrysanthe- 
mums given them by crowds of people who cheered them 
on their way, people who in many of these villages had 
been only one day liberated from the German yoke. Our 
men marched singing, with a smiling light in their eyes. 
They had done their job, and it was finished with the great- 
est victory in the world. 

The war ended for us at Mons, as it had begun there. 
When I went into this town this morning it seemed to me 



m THE WAY TO VICTORY 

a most miraculous coincidence and a joyful one. Last 
night there was a fight outside the town before our men 
forced their way in at ten o'clock. The Germans left many 
of their guns in the gardens before they ran. This morn- 
ing Mons was full of English cavalry and Canadian troops, 
about whom there were crowds of townspeople, cheering 
them and embracing them. One old man told me of all 
they had suffered in Mons, but he wept only when he told 
me of the sufferings of our prisoners. *'What shame for 
Germany," he said. "What shame when these things are 
known about your poor men starving to death. Our women 
tried to give them food, but were beaten for it, and fifteen 
days ago down there by the canal one of your English was 
killed because a woman gave him a bit of bread." Little 
children came up to me and described the fighting the night 
before, and many people narrated the first fighting in Mons 
in August of 1914, when the ''Old Contemptibles" were 
there and fought their battle through the town, and then 
on their way of retreat outside. 

All that is now a memory of the past. The war belongs 
to the past. There will be no flash of gun-fire in the sky 
to-night. The fires of hell have been put out, and I have 
written my last message as war correspondent. Thank 
God! 

November 12 
Last night for the first time since August in the first year 
of the war there was no light of gun-fire in the sky, no 
sudden stabs of flame through the darkness, no long spread- 
ing glow above the black trees, where for four years of 
nights human beings were being smashed to death. The 
fires of hell had been put out. It was silent all along the 
front with the beautiful silence of the nights of peace. We 
did not stand listening to the dull rumbling of artillery at 
work, which has been the undertone of all closer sounds for 
fifteen hundred nights, nor have sudden heart-beats at ex- 
plosions shaking the earth and the air, nor say in whisper 



THE LAST PHASE 273 

to oneself, ''Curse those guns!" At eleven o'clock in the 
morning the order had gone to all the batteries to cease 
fire. No more men were to be killed, no more to be man- 
gled, no more to be blinded. The last of the boyhood of 
the world was reprieved. On the way back from Mons I 
listened to this silence which followed the going down of 
the sun, and heard the rustling of the russet leaves and the 
little sounds of night in peace, and it seemed as though God 
gave a benediction to the wounded soul of the world. Other 
sounds rose from the towns and fields in the yellowing twi- 
light and in the deepening shadow-world of the day of 
armistice. They were sounds of human joy. Men were 
singing somewhere on the roads, and their voices rung out 
gladly. Bands were playing, as all day on the way to Mons 
I had heard their music ahead of the marching columns. 
Bugles were blowing. In the villages from which the en- 
emy had gone out that morning round about Mons crowds 
of figures surged in the narrow streets, and English laugh- 
ter rose above the silvery chatter of women and children. 
The British soldiers were still on the march with their 
guns, and their transport, and their old field-cookers, and 
all along their lines I heard these men talking to each other 
gaily, as though something had loosened their tongues and 
made them garrulous. Motor-cars streaked through the 
Belgian streets, dodging the traffic, and now and then when 
night fell rockets were fired from them, and there were 
gusts of laughter from young officers shooting off Verey 
pistols into the darkness to celebrate the end of hostilities 
by this symbol of rising stars, which did not soar so high 
as their spirits. From dark towns like Tournai and Lille 
these rockets rose and burned a little while with white light. 
Our aviators flew like bats in the dusk, skimming the tree- 
tops and gables, doing Puck-like gambols above the tawny 
sunset, looping and spiralling and falling in steep dives 
which looked like death for them until they flattened out 
and rose again, and they, too, these boys who have been 
reprieved from the menace which was close to them on 



274 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

every flight, fired flares and rockets which dropped down 
to the crowds of French and Flemish people waving to them 
from below. 

Late into the night there were sounds of singing and 
laughter from open windows in the towns which had been 
all shuttered, with the people hiding in their cellars a week 
ago or less, and British officers sat down to French pianos 
and romped about the keys and crashed out chords, and 
led the chorus of men who wanted to sing any old song. 
In the officers' clubs glasses were raised, and some one called 
a toast, and no one heard more than the names of England, 
Scotland, and France, with "victory" as the loudest word, 
for men had risen from all the tables, and boys were stand- 
ing on their chairs, and there was the beginning of cheers 
which lasted five minutes, ten minutes, longer than that. 
And some of those who cheered had moist eyes, and were 
not ashamed of that because of the memories in their hearts 
for old pals who had gone missing on the night of the 
Armistice. Perhaps the old pals heard these cheers and 
joined in the toast, for noise of all this gladness of liv- 
ing men rose into the night sky along the length and breadth 
of all our armies. And in the midst of all this sound of 
exultation men had sudden silences, thinking back to the 
things which have passed. 

Yesterday, coming back trom Mons, I had no time to 
write more than a few words describing the best day but 
one, when our victory shall be sealed by peace. I had 
dodged a hundred mine-craters blown up by the enemy 
along all the roads to Mons, and had become entangled in 
tides of traffic, and had travelled far through liberated 
country. But I had been determined to get to Mons, and 
on the day of ''Cease fire!" to go to that town, which by a 
happy miracle was taken in the last battle, so that the war 
ended for us where it began, where the "Old Contempti- 
bles" withstood the first shock of the German arms. It 
was worth going to Mons yesterday with this memory in 
one's mind, and anyhow because of the wonderful scenes 



THE LAST PHASE 275 

along the roads. I have already told how I stopped at 
brigade headquarters on the way, and an officer there said, 
''Hostilities will cease at eleven o'clock this morning, and 
thank God for that." 

With this news I went on, and saw that everywhere the 
news had gone ahead of me. Soldiers assembled in the 
fields for morning parade were flinging their steel helmets 
up and cheering. As they marched through the villages, 
they shouted out to the civilians, ''Guerre fini. Boche 
napoo," and women and children came running to them 
with autumn flowers, mostly red and white chrysanthe- 
mums, and they put them in their tunics and in the straps 
of their steel helmets. Thousands of flags appeared sud- 
denly in a village where no French or Belgian flag could 
be shown without fines and imprisonment until that very 
morning, when liberty had come again, and every Tommy 
in the ranks had a bit of colour at the end of his rifle or 
stuck through his belt, and every gun-team had a banner 
floating above its limbers or its guns, and its horses had 
flowers in their harness. For miles there was a pageant 
on the roads, and as there moved one way endless tides 
of British infantry and cavalry and artillery and transport 
with all that flutter of flags above them, with the great 
banners of Belgium and France like flames above them, 
another tide moved the opposite way, and that had its flags 
and its banners. It was a pitiful heroic tide of life made 
up of thousands of civilian people who that morning had 
come back through the German lines. They were the men 
from fifteen to sixty who had been taken away from Cam- 
brai and Courtrai, Lille and Roubaix and Tourcoing, Tour- 
nai and Valenciennes, and hundreds of towns and villages 
in the wake of the enemy's retreat, because to the very end 
the German command had conscripted this manhood to 
forced labour and to prevent them from serving their own 
armies. Then at last yesterday, seeing that their own doom 
had come, they said to these people in Brussels and other 



276 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

towns behind their lines: "You can go. We want no 
more of you." 

So vast numbers of men and boys who had been forced 
from their homes by German bayonets, and with them thou- 
sands of women, were making their way home yesterday 
on all the roads through Mons and Ath. They were bur- 
dened with the luggage they had taken on their exile. The 
men had heavy packs strapped about them, so that they 
bent under the load, exhausted by long trekking, with only 
food enough for life. But each man had added some 
straws to his camel's weight by adding flags into his pack, 
not one flag, but mostly four or five, so that as he trudged 
with bent head these colours fluttered above him. There 
were armies of these boys, and among them were crowds 
of elderly men in black coats and bowler-hats with mud up 
to their knees and stains on their backs where they had 
slept on filthy straw. Groups of them, a dozen or more, 
pushed hand-carts made roughly out of boxes holding 
their wallets and packs, and so they made their way through 
our troops going forward, and every now and then these 
men stopped round their carts to raise their hats and shout, 
''Vivent les Anglais!" and to grasp the hands of British 
Tommies and say, ''Bravo, bravo." The women showed 
the courage which has never departed from them through 
all these years of tragedy. They were hot and spent by 
this long journey on roads, and their hair had become un- 
coiled and their skirts were bedraggled with mud. But they 
had an eager look in their eyes, and strained forward at 
the ropes of their carts with the vision of their homes lur- 
ing them on mile after mile to Tournai and Lille. I saw 
'two of them come home yesterday and reach their jour- 
ney's end. It was mother and daughter, in a village be- 
tween Tournai and Mons. They halted outside their house, 
and saw that in their absence it had been shelled into a rub- 
bish-heap of brickdust and broken timbers. They had 
travelled far to come home. . . . Outside Mons two girls 
walked with me across a footbridge which our Engineers 



THE LAST PHASE 277 

had built across the canal where all the bridges had been 
blown up by the enemy. One of them was a tall peasant 
girl, who seemed to me like Joan, the Maid of Domremy, 
because of the brave look in her eyes and her frank way 
of speech and her heroic simplicity. She described the 
fighting which had liberated the town that night. "I was 
not afraid," she said, "because I have never feared death. 
But machine-gun bullets were all around us, and four of 
our people were killed. They could not go down in their 
cellars because they wanted to see the English come.'* 

She told me of the sufferings of the British prisoners, 
as all the people in Mons told me, and something broke in 
her voice at this thought, and her eyes were swept with 
tears. She turned for a moment in her swinging walk, 
and said, ''Monsieur, they suffered more than I can tell. 
I have seen ten of your men struggle with each other to 
get a bit of bread lying in the mud. Because I gave them 
one little piece I was clubbed with a German rifle. They 
died of hunger, and we saw them grow weak, and we wept 
for them." It was from a child in Mons that I heard the 
fullest story of this last battle for the town. She was not 
mbre than seven, and stood on the step of my car, a little 
elfin creature, and in her high metallic voice very gravely 
described what had happened a few hours before. ''Over 
there. Monsieur, were the German machine-guns, and they 
had field-guns in our gardens. Your men had come up 
to the line of the canal. They were Canadians, and your 
English cavalry, as I know, because I kissed their hands 
this morning, and said, 'Will you tell me who you are?* 
There was a great noise of firing, and the machine-guns 
frightened me, because of their tapping. Some Ger- 
mans were killed. I think there were many dead, though 
I have only seen two or three dead men who are lying 
over there." 

She pointed to some place down by the canal. She 
spoke like an old woman, this child of seven in the town 
of Mons. I met many people there who remembered the 



278 THE WAY TO VICTORY 

first Battle of Mons as though it were yesterday, and in 
the square where thousands of people were gathered among 
cur English Lancers and Canadian troops little groups 
stood round telling of those days, and pointing out the 
places where our men had fought in the streets before they 
made their line outside, and fell back in retreat before 
overwhelming forces. In my heart I saluted the old ''Con- 
temptibles." Some of them were there yesterday among 
our 5th Lancers, chosen for that purpose by General Cur- 
rie, commanding the Canadian Corps. 

And now the world in its heart must salute all our sol- 
diers who through these four years and more of war have 
fought for this victory by great heroism through many 
years of horror and tragedy, with enormous sacrifice. I 
see only two figures in this war now that hostilities have 
ceased — the ofiicers and men who have gained this victory 
on the British Front. One is the figure of the regimen- 
tal officer, from subaltern to battalion commander, the boys 
and their elder brothers, who went over the top at dawn 
and led their men gallantly, hiding any fear of death they 
had, and who in dirty ditches and dug-outs, in mud and 
swamps, in fields under fire, in ruins that were death-traps, 
in all the filth and misery of this war held fast to the pride 
of manhood, and in the worst hours did not weaken, and 
for their country's sake and the game they play offered 
up their life, and all that life means to youth, as a free, 
cheap gift. And the other figure is Tommy. Poor old 
Tommy! You have had a rough time, and you hated it, 
but by the living God you have been patient and long-suf- 
fering and full of grim and silent courage, not swanking 
about the things you have done, not caring a jot for glory, 
not getting much, but now you have done your job, and it 
is well done. 



THb FLANDtR S 
FRONT 

Eng sh M es 



App Q ma e 83 e A onts 

June 9 6 

De 9 7 

Ap 9 8 ^^ 




UMASS/BOSTON LIBRARIES 





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